Business Loans For HVAC Companies

business loans for hvac companies

It’s hard to imagine modern life without the benefit of the work done by the HVAC industry. HVAC companies (HVAC refers to heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are tasked with keeping us warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and breathing safely as we live our lives in the archipelago of enclosed spaces that comprises our indoor universe.

With the economy in a period of expansion, demand for new construction has risen, and where the construction industry goes, so goes HVAC work. After all, these new offices, homes, and transportation systems aren’t going to keep themselves ventilated and comfortable.

As with any industry, HVAC companies have their own particular financing needs. There’s no shortage of loan products out there, offered by banks, online lenders, credit card issuers, and even the federal government. But you probably knew that already. The question most relevant to you is: Which types of loans best fit the specific financing needs you’re going to have in the course of operating your HVAC business?

That’s where Merchant Maverick comes in. We’ll help make sense of the lending market for you and direct you to the loan products that best fit your specific needs. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and delve into how to get a business loan for an HVAC company.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Marketing & Advertising Medium-Term Loan Fundation
Equipment Purchasing Equipment Loan Lendio
Business Expansion SBA Loan SmartBiz
Emergency Funds Business Credit Card Chase Ink Business Unlimited
Working Capital Short-Term Loan PayPal LoanBuilder
Covering Payroll Line Of Credit OnDeck

Loans For Marketing & Advertising

business loans for HVAC

Whether your HVAC company is just finding its legs and seeking to generate new leads or is established but working to expand, marketing and advertising are integral to an HVAC business’s success. Of course, such a campaign costs money, and the funds need to come from somewhere.

While we’re not here to tell you how to run your marketing campaign, here’s a quick tip: Reach out to people just before summer and winter begin. It’s when your services will be most in demand — for obvious reasons!

Medium-Term Loans

A medium-term loan is an installment loan (a loan that is repaid periodically over a defined period of time with interest) with a term length of between two and five years. You can typically borrow more with a medium-term loan, but if your anticipated marketing campaign won’t cost that much, a short-term loan would be appropriate.

A medium-term loan can obviously be used for any business purpose. However, since you should be able to more accurately estimate the cost of your marketing campaign than many other types of business expenses, a loan in which you borrow a specific amount of money is particularly appropriate here.

Recommended Option: Fundation

fundation logo

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Founded in 2011, Fundation has since become one of the leading “alternative” lenders, boasting competitive rates, a solid reputation, and fixed-rate pricing (the interest rate will not increase over the life of the loan). Fundation’s term loans max out at $500K; accordingly, Fundation’s borrower qualifications are stricter than those of many online lenders. Fundation also offers lines of credit of up to $100K.

Fundation’s installment loans are offered with terms of one to four years and are fixed-rate, meaning the assigned interest rate will remain unchanged over the life of the loan. Additionally, Fundation sports a rapid time-to-funding, typically between two and seven days.

Loans For Equipment Purchasing

business loans for hvac companies

The HVAC industry relies on heavy equipment — the bigger the building, the heavier the equipment. Of course, these heating and cooling systems don’t come cheap. While any loan products can be used to cover the cost of purchasing HVAC equipment, there’s one type of loan tailored for this purpose: Equipment loans.

Equipment Loans

In many ways, an equipment loan resembles a traditional installment loan — you’ll be paying down the principal plus interest with monthly payments. The advantage of the equipment loan is that the equipment you purchase with the funds serves as collateral. Equipment loans are therefore secured loans, and secured loans typically have better rates and terms than their unsecured counterparts.

With an equipment loan, the lender usually covers most of the cost of purchasing the equipment, leaving around 10% to 20% to be covered by you. On occasion, however, the lender might be willing to cover the entire cost.

Equipment Leases

An equipment lease is another means of equipment financing. Such leases fall into one of two categories: Capital leases and operating leases.

With a capital lease, you are considered to be the owner of the equipment in question, so the arrangement resembles a loan in many ways. You make your monthly payments throughout the course of the lease. Afterward, you pay a small residual to close your account.

An operating lease lets you essentially rent the equipment during the lease, making monthly payments. When the lease ends, you can either return the equipment or buy it at fair market value, giving you a nice degree of flexibility.

See our article on equipment loans vs equipment leases for more information.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t your typical lender. In fact, Lendio isn’t a direct lender at all. Lendio is a loan aggregator, which means that you submit a single loan application which Lendio then passes on to multiple lenders, saving you time and effort. Within about three days of submitting your application, you should be fielding multiple equipment financing offers.

Through Lendio, you can find an equipment loan as large as $5 million, with loan terms ranging from one to five years and interest rates as low as 7.5% for highly qualified borrowers.

Loans For Business Expansion

business loans for hvac companies

Let’s say your HVAC company has been thriving and is ready to expand to meet the challenges of our glorious future of relentless climate extremes. Without an infusion of cash, however, your expansion plans may not be feasible. If you’re looking for a sizable loan at a reasonable interest rate, consider an SBA loan.

SBA Loans

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is an agency of the federal government meant to assist small businesses in obtaining funding. For the most part, the SBA does not lend directly to businesses. Rather, it guarantees up to 85% of loans offered by SBA-approved lenders. These lenders are known as intermediaries.

While SBA loans feature competitive rates and terms, be warned that borrower requirements tend to be rather stringent.

Here’s a rundown of four of the main SBA loan programs with links to articles describing the programs in greater detail.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

Review

Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

Review

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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There is no shortage of SBA-approved lenders out there. However, if you’re looking to grow your HVAC business with an SBA loan, you might find the complex SBA application process to be intimidating and fraught with peril. The beauty of SmartBiz is that the company helps simplify and streamline the application process for you so that you can make sense of it all.

SmartBiz is not a lender. Describing themselves as the “white knight in small business lending,” SmartBiz will match you with an SBA-approved lender after helping you through the onerous application process. You’ll need to have at least two years of business history behind you and a personal credit score of at least 650, but if you meet these and other requirements, you can get an SBA-backed loan of up to $350,000 with interest rates between 8% and 9%. Not too shabby!

Loans For Emergency Funds

business loans for hvac

Let’s say the construction industry takes a downturn, leaving you with less business. You still have employees to pay and expenses to cover. How should a company in your position deal with unexpected cash flow problems? When you need a flexible funding solution you can draw from on an as-needed basis, consider a business credit card.

Business Credit Cards

As business credit cards tend to feature higher interest rates than business loans, they aren’t an ideal funding mechanism in many instances. But when unexpected situations arise and you need a stop-gap measure to temporarily plug some funding holes, there’s nothing like the ease and convenience of a business credit card. With the right card, you can cover emergencies while earning rewards and/or cash back along the way.

A good credit history will help you get lower interest rates and a higher credit limit. However, even with a less-than-stellar credit history, there are options available to you, including secured credit cards, which require a security deposit.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, whatever you do, don’t pay for a credit check. Here are some websites that let you check your credit score for free.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card is a great way to cover those unexpected expenses while earning 1.5% cash back to boot. If you’re using a credit card to cover emergencies, you’re probably not looking for a card with rotating cash back spending categories or lavish travel benefits. The Ink Business Unlimited comes without these extraneous distractions so you can focus on getting your HVAC business out of a jam while earning cash back on everything you buy.

Keep in mind that you’ll need good to excellent credit to qualify for the Ink Business Unlimited. If your credit doesn’t fit that description, check out these options for business owners with poor credit.

Loans For Working Capital

loans for hvac businesses

Working capital refers to the money you use to keep your business running on a day-to-day basis. When times are good, your cash flow should be sufficient to keep your company running smoothly. The problem is that without extraordinary luck, times will not always be good, particularly in a field prone to seasonal slow-downs like the HVAC industry.

When seeking a loan for this purpose, you’ll want something that affords you a high degree of flexibility in terms of what you can spend your funds on. For this reason, a short-term loan may be worth your consideration.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is an installment loan that must be repaid within 12 months or less. Payments must be made on a weekly or even daily basis and are normally deducted automatically from your business account. If approved, you can usually get your funds within a few days. Short-term loans are all about fast money, both in terms of getting the money and paying it back.

Instead of charging interest on what you borrow, short-term lenders charge you a flat fee known as a factor rate. This factor rate is a multiplier that determines the lender’s fee. I’ll give an example: Take out a $50,000 loan at a 1.2 factor rate, and you’ll be paying $60K for the loan over the agreed-upon term length.

Recommended Option: PayPal LoanBuilder

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PayPal’s LoanBuilder is what the name suggests. You essentially build your own loan by customizing its elements to fit your particular situation. The loans offered range from $5K to $500K and term lengths run from 13 to 52 weeks.

LoanBuilder’s lender requirements aren’t terribly strict. Your business must have been running for at least 9 months. Your annual revenue must be at least $42,000 and your personal credit score must be at least 550. As ever, your credit history and your company’s overall health will determine your maximum borrowing amount and your rates.

Loans For Covering Payroll

 

Heating and cooling systems don’t install themselves. To ensure that our apartments, workplaces, and shopping centers don’t become unlivable nasty hellscapes, an HVAC business needs workers. Workers need to be hired, trained, and paid, all of which costs money.

If you need help hiring new employees (or paying the ones you already have), consider a line of credit.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit operates on the same principle as a credit card. Instead of receiving a lump sum of dinero all at once, you’re given a credit line you can draw from whenever you feel the need. As with a credit card, you’ll have a credit limit to contend with, and you pay fees and interest only on the funds you use, not the total amount of the line of credit.

Recommended Option: OnDeck

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If you need funding quickly, consider a line of credit from OnDeck. Approval should come in a matter of days, and the credit requirements are not particularly strict. Your credit line can run anywhere from $6K to $100K.

One thing to keep in mind about OnDeck’s lines of credit is that they are a short-term funding mechanism, lasting only about 6 months.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

business loans for hvac businesses

For business owners seeking a loan, there has never been a wider array of funding options. To help narrow down your search, consider the following questions.

Why Do I Need A Loan?

Before you can even start looking at particular options, you need to be certain of the purpose of your loan. Whether you’re looking to expand your business or purchase new equipment, only by defining your precise need can you select a loan product that fits what you seek to accomplish. Otherwise, you’re flying blind without any point of reference.

No one lender or loan makes sense for every business need under the sun. Know what it is that you need and shop accordingly!

Am I Qualified?

There’s no need to examine a lender in detail if you won’t qualify for its loans in the first place. Try to find and examine a lender’s minimum qualifications before going through the terms and fees with a fine-toothed comb.

Vendors of business loans nearly always inquire about your time in business, credit rating, and revenue. On each of these measures, the lender may have a strict cutoff point where, if you don’t meet the benchmark, you don’t qualify. Alternately, they may just use this information to determine your rates. Either way, it’s information you’ll need to provide.

Do The Rates & Terms Meet My Needs?

It’s obviously important to consider a lender’s rates and terms when deciding on what loan to pursue. Make sure you can afford the funding; nothing will give you nightmares like taking out a loan you can’t repay. However, a lender’s reputation and business practices are equally important. To get a sense of just how a lender treats its customers, try to find user feedback on the company in question wherever you can. Read enough reviews (we do business loan reviews, you know!) and borrower feedback and you’ll get a pretty good idea as to whether the lender is an honest broker or a predator fixing to bleed you dry.

What You Need To Apply For HVAC Business Loans

The number of documents you’ll have to round up depends on the lender. Naturally, you’ll need the basics — name, business name, address, telephone number, email address, social security number, and federal tax ID number. Many lenders will require much more, however. Here are some documents you should be prepared to submit, depending on the lender:

  • Business & Personal Credit Reports/Score
  • Business & Personal Bank Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Business Licenses
  • Business Owner Resumes
  • A Business Plan

For a more thorough look at how to apply for a business loan, read our in-depth take on business loan requirements.

Final Thoughts

Now more than ever, we need the HVAC industry at the top of its game. As I write this, wind-driven fires have spread dangerously smoky air over large parts of my tinder-dry home state of California, and proper indoor ventilation is literally the last line of defense for many in the affected areas.

When seeking a loan for your HVAC company, do your due diligence, explore all your options, and get your documents in order. This should set you up nicely for getting the loan that paves the way for your success.

The post Business Loans For HVAC Companies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains vs. GoDaddy_ Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains and GoDaddy are two of the most well-known domain name registrars on the Internet. I’ve written about both Google Domains and compared GoDaddy to NameCheap (their other big competitor). But how do they compare to each other?

Visit GoDaddy’s Current Domain Coupon

Visit Google Domain’s Current Selection

Domain Registrars are a unique industry. Since ICANN issues all domain names, leaving Registrars mainly as bookkeepers, there is not a ton of scope to offer completely different products. At the end of the day, you simply need a domain name that you can associate with a server where your data lives.

And yet, not all domain registrars are the same (which is why you are reading this post, I’m guessing). I’ve tried dozens and have had every problem imaginable. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. Everybody has tradeoffs. And Google and GoDaddy are actually a good example of very different approaches to domain registration.

I was a Day One customer of Google Domains back at their launch, and I’ve been a customer (and consultant to customers) of GoDaddy for 10+ years.

Here are my thoughts on Google Domains vs. GoDaddy based on company structure, pricing structure, domain selection, usability, customer support, and complementary products.

You can also Skip to Conclusion.

Disclosure: I receive customer referral fees from companies on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customers.

Company Structure

For long-term projects, company structure matters more than really anything else. An investor-funded startup will have very different incentives than a publicly traded company. And a product that directly makes a profit will be treated differently than a product that complements a company’s main profit center.

Google and GoDaddy are very well-known brands, but are very different companies in regards to domains.

GoDaddy and Google are both publicly traded companies. They answer to their shareholder’s short and long-term demands for profit.

GoDaddy was founded as a domain registrar. Domains are their thing. Now, they expanded to be an online business services company in recent years. Domains are now part of their profit puzzle. For GoDaddy, domains are still their “thing” but they are increasingly a loss-leader to sell other products such as website builders, web hosting, bookkeeping, and email.

GoDaddy wants you to buy a domain, because they know that once you buy, then you’ll buy other stuff and probably stick around.

Google is an advertising company. They make their money selling extremely targeted ads based on data that no one else has. Domains are absolutely not their “thing”. However, Google does want and need your loyalty and your data more than anything in the world. They also need websites to be on the open Web.

The biggest loss for Google is for you to run your business off Facebook and Instagram while never logging into Google. Now, recently Google has started making money off Enterprise & Business Services via their Cloud and G Suite services. But that’s a complement to their data need.

Google wants you to buy a domain so that you are, at minimum, logged into Google with an independent website that they can index and that you’ll probably run ads to. Additionally, if you buy a domain from Google, you might buy G Suite for your business.

The Upside: You can get a good deal from both these companies. GoDaddy will run crazy discounts just to get you to buy. Google wants everything to be simple and easy.

The Downside: Your actual domain is not a huge concern for either company. GoDaddy only cares about your domain in so far as you stick around and buy stuff. And Google isn’t really sure if they want to do domains. In fact, Google Domains is now in its 5th Year of “beta”. In other words, it’s still a “test product” that Google might shut down any day without advance notice (a habit of theirs).

Google Domains

The Alternatives: If you read those and thought “hmm, well those don’t sound that great either” – well, you might want to check out either Hover or NameCheap. They both focus on & make money off domains. Hover has excellent usability and NameCheap has excellent long-term pricing and solid complementary products.

If you really like the upsides of Google & GoDaddy, then let’s look at how they play out across other factors.

Pricing Structure

Google Domains has a flat rate for domains with no discounts or promos. Their renewal (and upfront) purchase price is slightly higher than some domain registrars, but also not too far out of line to be an issue. Pricing is simple and transparent.

Google Domains Pricing

GoDaddy is a bit different. Their renewal pricing is higher than most direct competitors like NameCheap and Hover, but they run deeper 1 year discounts than any registrar that I’ve ever used.

This link redirects to GoDaddy’s most current discount.

GoDaddy also has a membership program for people who own a lot of domains. It’s an annual fee, but then you can renew hundreds of domains at excellent long-term pricing.

If you plan on keeping your domain for more than ~4 years, then you might as well go with Google Domains for pricing.

If you want to save a bit of money right now, then you should take advantage of GoDaddy’s current discount. And if you are really into saving money, you can grab GoDaddy’s discount and simply transfer your domain elsewhere at the end of your term.

Domain Selection

Ever since the great ICANN domain name gold rush, vanity TLDs (top level domains) have become more and more common. No TLD will ever displace .com and .org but if domain names for your industry are crowded, then a niche TLD might be worth it.

But you can’t buy one from every registrar.

Fortunately, both GoDaddy and Google have fairly expansive lists for common TLDs. However, for sheer selection, Google cannot come near GoDaddy (especially when it comes to Premium domains and Auctions).

Google Domains TLDs

GoDaddy TLD

As of October 2018, GoDaddy has more than 480 TLDs to choose from compared to Google’s 227.

This is not a huge issue (since you can just check each), but if you are planning on buying additional vanity or brand domains, selection is something to keep in mind.

Usability

You probably won’t be actively managing domains day in and day out. So on one hand, domain name management is not a huge factor. However, when you do have to manage your domains…you *really* need to manage them. So on the other hand, domain name management is pretty critical.

Settings should be clear. Interfaces should have good design.

On this point, Google Domains shines…almost to a fault.

Google Domains has nothing to upsell or resell or push, so the interface is minimalist. The product has Google’s Material Design aesthetic with clear settings and straightforward interfaces.

Google Domains Interface

GoDaddy in contrast…has a bit of a reputation here.

While they have dramatically improved since 2013, GoDaddy’s interfaces are still quite maddening. Once you figure them out, everything is good. But at the start, it’s hard to find complex settings (like the ones you might need to set up G Suite Email). At every turn, they have some product to sell (Premium DNS!). And settings that they don’t want you to use (like the Authorization Code to leave) are straight up buried.

GoDaddy Dashboard

Now – that’s not necessarily a big deal. I have a client who has used GoDaddy for 12 years and has needed to change a setting exactly once that whole time. The other time…I got to do it. GoDaddy works, it’s cheap, and it’s a known big brand.

But if you are actively managing domains – you should go with Google Domains or another registrar like Hover that focuses on clean user experience.

Customer Support

Customer support for domains. It’s one of those factors that you don’t really need until you **really** need it.

Google Domains does provide some support in English, Spanish, French and Japanese. They offer phone, chat, and email 24 hours a day. It’s pretty standard support.

Google Domains Support

GoDaddy has the full gamut of support via phone, email, chat, knowledgebase, etc. They offer localized support depending on which GoDaddy subsidiary you’re with.

GoDaddy Support

Like all customer support, it’s a bit anecdotal but my experience with GoDaddy has been fine with the expected mega-corp annoyances. Google has also been fine, but they definitely seem to be building their team still. Even as recently as a year ago, they only offered support for business hours in English.

Complementary Products

Domains are not stand alone products. By themselves, domains can do very little other than point somewhere.

I am a fan of buying domains from a domain registrar and purchasing complementary products elsewhere (e.g. hosting, email, storage, etc). I do it to save a bit of money and build diversity into my setups (ie, if company X has issues, it’s easier to move if company Y is still fine).

However, that setup is also a bit of a pain. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend it. And for those who want a convenient setup with a single good company handling hosting, email, domains, etc – it’s important to have one that has those complementary products.

Like customer support, Google Domains does not really have a ton of complementary products. Google Domains will directly integrate with Google Sites (Google’s free website builder), Blogger (Google’s free blog service), and G Suite (Google’s business email & storage.

Google Domains Website Integrations

However, Google does not provide traditional hosting and their website builders are lacking.

GoDaddy’s complementary products are their “thing” – they have everything from every flavor of hosting (including WordPress, Shared, Reseller, VPS, etc) to email to storage to accounting to security solutions to website builders and payment processing.

GoDaddy Focus

If you are looking for a company to have everything with for convenience, then GoDaddy “wins” hands down.

If you are looking for a company that has integration with email but will integrate your domain with 3rd parties, then Google Domains is solid.

Next Steps

Like I’ve said in all my reviews and comparisons, there is no such thing as a “best” anything. There is only the best for you based on your preferences, needs, and resources.

If you want a simple place to register your domain and integrate with Google Apps, then Google Domains is a fit for you.

If you want a registrar with discounts and lots of complementary products, then GoDaddy is a fit for you.

And if you still aren’t sure, then read my Domain Registrar Guide here.

The post Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Small Business Loans For Beauty And Nail Salons

Whether you’re the owner of an established beauty salon or it’s your dream to open your own nail spa, one thing is clear: your business needs money. As the old saying goes, it takes money to make money, but what happens when the money’s just not there?

If you’re the owner of a beauty or nail salon and you need money to grow your business (or you’re ready to get your business off the ground), consider a small business loan as one of your best resources. With a small business loan, you can pay your business expenses, tackle that unexpected emergency, or expand your customer base with a new marketing campaign.

No matter what your needs, a small business loan has you covered. Before diving into the application process, know what to expect, the kinds of loans you’ll encounter, and which type of loan works best for your business. Read on to learn more about the options available to you to start or expand your beauty or nail salon.

Financing Need Best Loan Type Recommended Lender
Equipment Purchasing Equipment Financing Lendio
Business Expansion SBA 7(a) Loans SmartBiz
Supplies & Inventory Line Of Credit Fundbox
Emergency Funding Business Credit Cards Chase Ink Business Cash
Marketing & Advertising Short Term Loans Credibly
Cash Flow Cash Flow Loans StreetShares
Starting A Salon Startup Loans BlueVine

Equipment Purchasing

Your beauty salon equipment is outdated and desperately needs to be upgraded. Your nail salon is booming, and you need to purchase more stations and equipment to better serve your customers.

This equipment comes at a cost — a cost that your business may not be able to afford.

If you need to purchase equipment but don’t have the money to buy it outright, there’s a financing option. Instead of draining your bank account, consider equipment financing.

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a simple concept. A lender provides you with the money you need to purchase equipment. This allows you to take possession and put the equipment into use immediately. Because the lender provided the funds, you don’t have to pay the full equipment costs out-of-pocket. Instead, you’ll be able to pay back the loan through affordable scheduled payments.

Equipment financing can only be used toward the purchase of equipment for your business. For beauty and nail salons, this could include hair dryers, stylist chairs, or a point-of-sale system. Rates, terms, down payments, and loan amounts are based on creditworthiness. Most lenders look for credit scores in the high 600s, although some will accept lower credit scores. High-risk borrowers may be required to put more money down or pay higher interest rates.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio is a loan-matching service that connects you to over 75 business lenders. Through Lendio, you can receive offers from multiple lenders with just one application. This cuts down on the amount of time you’ll spend shopping for a loan while ensuring you receive the best offers.

Lendio offers equipment financing for business owners. Other loan products offered through Lendio’s network include term loans, SBA loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards.

For Lendio’s equipment financing programs, all borrowers must be in business for at least 12 months, bring in at least $10,000 per month in revenue, and have a credit score of 650.

Equipment loans of up to $5 million are available, with repayment terms between 1 and 5 years. Interest rates start at 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers. Fees vary by lender, and the equipment being financed typically serves as the collateral.

Business Expansion

Your business and customer base are growing so much, it’s time for your salon to expand. Maybe you want to build an addition to your existing salon, or you want to purchase commercial real estate to open a new location. While business expansion means that your business is growing, it also means additional expenses.

Most business owners don’t have the means to fund expansion expenses out-of-pocket. Even if they do, tying up such a large amount of their capital isn’t always the wisest move. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about taking on this burden by yourself. With a Small Business Administration loan, you’ll be able to break large expenses into smaller, more manageable monthly payments.

SBA 7(a) Loans

The Small Business Administration offers multiple loan programs, but the 7(a) loan is one of the most popular. With high loan limits, flexible repayment terms, and low interest rates, it’s easy to see why this is a top choice for qualified business owners.

The SBA 7(a) loan can be used for almost any business purpose, including business expansion. You can update your existing salon, purchase commercial real estate, or fund any other business expense with this loan.

SBA 7(a) loans are available in amounts up to $5 million. Repayment terms are 10 years for most purposes and maximum terms of 25 years are available for commercial real estate purchases. Interest rates are set at the prime rate plus a maximum of 4.75% based on the amount of your loan and repayment terms.

SBA 7(a) loans are typically reserved for the most qualified borrowers. To qualify for SBA loans, you must have a credit score in the high 600s and meet the SBA’s definition of a small business. Your credit report must be free of liens, collections, recent bankruptcies, and foreclosures. If you’ve previously defaulted on a government loan, you will not be eligible. Your business must be in an approved industry, based in the U.S., and have a time in business of at least 2 years.

Recommended Option: SmartBiz

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The process for receiving an SBA loan is notoriously long. Some borrowers wait months just to get the funding they need. SmartBiz is a lender that simplifies the process.

SmartBiz offers SBA commercial real estate loans from $500,000 up to $5 million. Interest rates are 6.75% to 8% with repayment terms up to 25 years. Working capital loans up to $350,000 are available with fees between 8% and 9% and repayment terms of 10 years.

SmartBiz charges several fees for obtaining an SBA loan, including referral fees, packaging fees, guarantee fees, and closing costs. Collateral may be required to receive your loan. Loans can be funded in as quickly as seven days through SmartBiz.

Supplies & Inventory Purchasing

POS systems for spas

There are critical supplies you need for daily business operations, not to mention customer inventory — like shampoo, hair brushes, nail polish, etc. — that helps bring in additional revenue. When you don’t have the supplies you need, you’re unable to perform the services that customers seek. When your inventory is depleted, you’re missing out on this additional revenue stream.

Whether you’re running low on supplies and inventory or you forecast a seasonal increase in the near future, there comes a time when you need to replenish your stock. If you’re not in a financial position to pay cash for supplies and inventory, consider applying for a business line of credit.

Business Line Of Credit

A business line of credit is a type of revolving credit that can be accessed as needed. Once approved by a lender, you’ll be given a credit limit. You can make multiple draws on your account, so you can receive the money you need right when you need it.

With a business line of credit, interest or fees will be charged only on the used portion of funds. As you repay your loan through weekly or monthly payments, these funds will become available for you to use again.

Lines of credit are available for most salon owners, regardless of credit score. While some lenders have credit score requirements, others base their approval decision on the performance of the business. Most lenders have time in business limits typically between 6 and 12 months, but there are some lenders that do not have minimum requirements. Annual revenue requirements are between $50,000 and $100,000 to qualify for most business lines of credit, but again, certain lenders do not have requirements in place.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox is a lender that provides lines of credit up to $100,000. To qualify, a borrower must have at least two months of activity in an accounting software app supported by Fundbox. If the borrower is unable to meet this requirement, bank statements showing transactions over the last three months can be submitted.

There are no credit limit requirements to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The application process is quick and easy, and an approval can be given in just minutes. Once approved, funds are available for immediate withdrawal and are typically transferred as soon as the next business day.

Fees for using Fundbox begin at 4.66%. Repayment terms are set at 12 or 24 weeks, and there are no prepayment penalties.

Emergency Funding

It happens to the best of us: an unexpected expense. If an emergency arises, even the most financially responsible salon owner can be taken by surprise.

If you’re facing a financial emergency, don’t panic. Take a deep breath and know that there are options for getting over this financial hurdle. Read on to learn why a business credit card can be a critical resource in these stressful situations.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is just like a personal credit card, except it is used to cover business expenses. Once you’re approved for a credit card, the lender will set a credit limit. You can use the card as often as you wish anywhere credit cards are accepted, up to your assigned credit limit.

Credit card payments are due each month and will be applied toward the principal balance and the interest charged by the lender. As you pay back borrowed funds, they become available to use again.

A credit card is helpful during emergencies because you don’t have to wait for approval from the lender. If you’ve already received your card, you can use it as needed for any business expense, from covering operating costs to purchasing supplies. Credit cards can even be used for recurring expenses month after month.

With responsible use, a credit card can not only help you cover unexpected expenses but can also lead to great rewards. Many lenders offer rewards programs with their credit cards. Just by using your card, you can earn points with every qualified purchase that can be redeemed for cash or other perks.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 21.24%, Variable

If you have good to excellent credit, you can qualify for the Chase Ink Business Cash card. This card comes with no annual fee, an introductory APR of 0% for the first year, and variable APRs of 15.24% to 21.24% after the introductory period.

With this card, you can receive 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent toward internet, cable, and phone purchases, as well as office supply store purchases. You’ll receive 2% on the first $25,000 spent at restaurants and gas stations and 1% cash back for all other purchases.

When you sign up for this credit card, you can receive $500 cash back just by spending $3,000 or more within 3 months of opening your account.

Unsure if this is the right card for you? Learn more about other Chase Ink credit cards for your business.

Marketing & Advertising

Customers are critical to the success of your beauty or nail salon. Without customers, you don’t have a business. While you may already have clientele, a growing business always needs more customers. To bring in these customers, marketing and advertising is critical.

Sure, you could rely on your social media presence alone, but if you really want to expand your business, you’ll need to launch a marketing and advertising campaign. If the cost of marketing and advertising is holding you back from growing your business, consider applying for a short-term loan to make this expense more manageable.

Short-Term Loans

A short-term loan is a loan for a specific amount of money that is paid back through smaller scheduled payments over a set period of time. While most short-term loans have repayment terms of one year or less, some lenders offer terms up to three years.

Most short-term loans don’t have an interest rate. Instead, these loans have a fee known as a factor rate. This multiplier is used to determine a one-time cost that is added to your loan.

Because short-term loans are for a specific amount, it’s important that you plan out your expenses to make sure you receive enough money. Do your research, calculate pricing, and form a plan for your marketing and advertising campaign before applying for a short-term loan.

Short-term loan requirements for time in business and annual revenue vary by lender. Your personal credit score will be considered, but scores in the 500s are accepted by some lenders. Borrowers with the best credit scores will be approved for higher loan amounts with lower fees and rates and better terms.

Recommended Option: Credibly

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Credibly provides short-term loans of up to $250,000 for eligible borrowers. Repayment terms are available for 6 to 17 months. Factor rates for the most qualified borrowers are as low as 1.15. A one-time origination fee of 2.5% of the total loan amount is charged by the lender. Credibly payments are made daily or weekly.

To qualify, borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 500. All borrowers must have been in business for at least 6 months and have at least $15,000 per month deposited to their bank accounts.

In addition to its short-term working capital loans, Credibly also provides business expansion loans and merchant cash advances.

Cash Flow

As a salon owner, it’s not uncommon to experience periods where business is slower than usual. Even when your cash flow slows down, you still have expenses … and this can be a problem.

Fortunately, a cash flow loan can provide you with the money you need to fill in these gaps. Whether you need funds to meet payroll or money for daily operating expenses, a cash flow loan can provide you with the capital you need when business slows down.

Cash Flow Loans

A cash flow loan provides you with the money you need when your cash flow has slowed. These funds are used to pay your expenses to keep your business running as it should.

There are several types of cash flow loans available. If you know the specific amount of money that you need, a term loan is a good choice. With this type of financing, you receive a lump sum and repay the loan, plus interest, through regular installments.

A line of credit is another type of cash flow loan. These loans are best for businesses that may have recurring expenses that require multiple draws.

Qualifying for a cash flow loan requires a minimum credit score of 500. Time in business and annual revenue requirements vary by lender.

Recommended Option: StreetShares

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StreetShares is a lender that offers multiple loan options to small- and medium-sized businesses. Term loans and lines of credit are available in amounts up to $250,000 with repayment terms up to 36 months. Contract financing is also available.

To qualify for a StreetShares loan, a business must be in operations for at least one year with minimum revenue of $25,000 per year. A credit score of at least 620 is required for all borrowers.

Starting A Salon

While we’ve addressed common financial challenges you’ll face when expanding your salon, what if you aren’t yet at that point? What if you’re the new business on the block, and you need extra money to really get your endeavor off the ground?

If you’re looking for money to start your own beauty or nail salon, qualifying for business loans can be difficult. However, it’s not impossible to receive the money you need to open your own salon if you know where to look. The first place to start is with a startup loan.

Startup Loans

A startup loan is a loan that is used to pay the expenses associated with starting a business, such as hiring employees, buying or leasing real estate, or purchasing equipment like POS systems and software.

For most startup loans from alternative lenders, a minimum credit score of around 600 is required. Interest rates are based on the borrower’s personal creditworthiness.

Some lenders require a minimum time in business. If this is a requirement, another option that can be considered is a personal loan. A personal loan can be used to fund startup costs and may come with a lower interest rate for borrowers with a solid credit profile.

Recommended Option: BlueVine

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BlueVine is an alternative lender that provides lines of credit up to $5 million for new businesses. Repayment terms of 6 months are available through BlueVine. The APR for receiving this financing is 15% to 78%.

To qualify, borrowers must be in business for at least 6 months. A minimum credit score of 600 and $120,000 in annual revenue is required to receive BlueVine’s line of credit. The application process is easy, there are no hidden fees, and lines of credit are funded quickly.

Bad Credit? Your Best Financing Options

The best business loans require high credit scores, so does that mean you’re left out in the cold if your credit history isn’t where it needs to be? Actually, there are financing options available for you if you have bad credit, but you should be aware that these loans come with higher interest rates, lower borrowing amounts, and a possible need for collateral.

Before applying for a loan, you should always know your credit score. You can obtain your free credit score quickly and easily online. Once you have your score, you can get a better idea of the types of loans available to you.

The best options for borrowers with bad credit are lines of credit, equipment financing, and short-term loans. These financing options typically have lower borrower requirements — including credit scores — than other loans.

Business credit cards are also a great choice for borrowers with poor credit. There are unsecured options available to borrowers with lower scores. Anyone that doesn’t qualify for an unsecured card can receive a secured card backed by a security deposit. After making several on-time payments, the borrower can build their credit and qualify for better financing options.

Bad credit limits your lending options and results in a higher overall cost for loans. If your funding need isn’t immediate, your best move is to take steps to raise your personal credit score. Although this option takes time, you’ll receive better loan offers that are more affordable for your business.

If you need financing urgently before you can build up your credit, consider applying for the Capital One Spark Classic business credit card. This credit card is available to borrowers with scores as low as 580.

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

With this credit card, you’ll be able to receive unlimited 1% cash back rewards on all purchases. Because this card is designed for borrowers with lower credit scores, the APR is fairly high at 24.74%. However, there is no annual fee, and Capital One reports to multiple credit agencies, allowing you to build your credit (provided you make your payment on time each month). As your credit score rises, you’ll be qualified to apply for business credit cards and other loan options with lower interest rates and better terms.

What You Need To Apply For Beauty & Nail Salon Business Loans

What you need to apply for a beauty or nail salon business loan varies based on the lender you work with and the type of loan you’re seeking. For example, a business credit card application typically requires some basic information, including your business name, federal tax ID number, annual revenue, social security number, and contact information.

For other financial products, such as SBA loans and startup loans, more extensive documentation is required. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Personal Financial Statements
  • Business & Personal Tax Returns
  • Balance Sheets
  • Income Statements
  • Profit & Loss Statements
  • Bank Statements
  • Future Financial Projections
  • Owner Resumes
  • Business Licenses

Requirements vary by lender, so once you’ve chosen a lender, make sure you discuss what documentation and information are required. Make yourself available throughout the lending process to provide more information as needed. Learn more about small business loan requirements before you apply.

Final Thoughts

It’s common to encounter financial hurdles while growing your salon, which is when taking out a loan just makes sense. By doing your research and becoming a responsible borrower, you’ll be able to boost and expand your business without clearing out your checking account. That’s the beauty of small business loans.

The post Small Business Loans For Beauty And Nail Salons appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS Squarespace

Shopify VS Squarespace

Pricing

✓

Tie

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Tie

✓

Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

✓

Ease Of Use

✓

Features

Web Design

✓

✓

Integrations & Add-Ons

✓

Payment Processing

✓

Customer Service & Technical Support

Negative Reviews & Testimonials

✓

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Security

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Review

Compare

Right away, Shopify and Squarespace both score points in my book for their names. Shopify is all about helping you build an online store where customers can shop — “shop-ify-ing” a regular website, as it were. Squarespace, by comparison, is a more traditional website builder, allowing you to create a literal “square space” (or series of square spaces) where people can view your content and images on the internet.

Thank you, Shopify and Squarespace. Your names actually make sense.

Indeed, Shopify is a household name in the world of shopping cart software, whereas Squarespace is well-known for its attractive and modern site design capabilities. Squarespace is more than just a pretty face, though. In the last few years, this platform has added ecommerce functionality at a surprising level of sophistication.

If you’re here for an epic cage match between Squarespace and Shopify, I’m guessing you’re thinking about both of these platforms in terms of ecommerce. You’re in luck, because this is the precise focus of our comparison. How does Squarespace’s ecommerce functionality and design measure up to the ecommerce powerhouse that is Shopify? How do they compare in terms of pricing, customer service, and payment processing? Keep reading for our take on these and other key facets of Shopify and Squarespace.

Don’t have time to read an entire article? Take a look at our top-rated eCommerce solutions for a few quick recommendations. Every option we present here offers excellent customer support, superb web templates, and easy-to-use software, all for a reasonable price.

 

Pricing

Winner: Squarespace

Both Shopify and Squarespace offer free 14-day trials with no credit card required, and neither charge setup or cancellation fees. From there, the two platforms begin to diverge. Here’s how the differences play out:

Shopify

  • Price Range: Choose from $29/month (Basic), $79/month (Shopify), or $299/month (Advanced) plans. There’s also a $9/month plan (Lite) for selling in-person, for embedding little “buy” buttons on other sites, and for selling on Facebook — but you don’t get an actual online store at all, so we’re leaving this plan out of our comparison for the most part.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: Save 10% when your subscription is paid annually upfront, or 20% if you pony up for two full years. For example, the Basic Plan becomes $26 or $23/month, and the Shopify Plan becomes $71 or $63/month.
  • Subscription Structure: All Basic ($29/month) plans and above include unlimited storage, products, and bandwidth. Higher subscription levels add a few features and additional staff accounts. Subscription levels also affect your Shopify transaction fees and your payment processing fees. Which leads us to…
  • Additional Transaction Fees: If you choose Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) as your payment gateway, you are not charged any separate transaction fees. As an added bonus, you also see a gradual decrease in your payment processing fees with Shopify Payments as you climb the subscription ladder. However, if you use an alternative payment processor and not Shopify Payments, Shopify does charge extra transaction fees, beginning at 2.0% on the Basic plan. Thankfully, these fees gradually decrease to 1.0% and 0.5% as you increase your subscription.

Squarespace

  • Price Range: For ecommerce capability, you must skip over the $16/month plan and start at the $26/month (Business) level. However, merchants who’d really want to take advantage of Squarespace’s ecommerce features in a manner that’s comparable to Shopify are likely opting for the $30/month (Commerce Basic) or $46/month (Commerce Advanced) plans.
  • Annual Subscription Discount: The Business plan drops to $18, Commerce Basic to $26, and Commerce Advanced to $40 per month when paid upfront in one annual lump sum. You also qualify for a free domain registration for one year when you pay your main subscription annually.
  • Subscription Structure: Similar to Shopify, features are added as you increase your Squarespace subscription level. Bumping up to Commerce Basic or Advanced will eliminate separate Squarespace transaction fees.
  • Additional Transaction Fees: A 3.0% fee (above your gateway fees) is incurred by Squarespace on every purchase if you’re on the Business Plan. This additional transaction fee is eliminated, however, on Commerce Basic and Advanced.

For a direct comparison with Shopify, use the smaller print, month-to-month figures for Squarespace (Commerce Basic $30 and Commerce Advanced $46). Shopify promotes month-to-month figures ($29, $79, or $299).

Confusing enough for you? With all these pricing components, you can’t actually perform a true apples-to-apples comparison of cost. In truth, both Shopify and Squarespace offer a fair market price for their services. I will say that the transaction fee issue is problematic with both companies, especially since many competing platforms have eliminated these extra charges altogether. The good news is that each platform at least offers some way out of these fees.

In the end, I’m primarily basing my pricing verdict on one key factor: Squarespace offers its complete arsenal of features for only $46/month ($40/month if paid annually). In contrast, Shopify reserves its premium features for sellers with much deeper pockets (six and a half times deeper, to be exact). The big question is: does Squarespace offer enough ecommerce features at that $46/month level? The answer will depend on your business needs, but you can keep reading to develop a clearer picture of each platform.

Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed

Winner: Tie

Your Shopify or Squarespace store will be fully-hosted. No need to download and install either one locally.

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

Both platforms allow unlimited bandwidth and products, but Shopify is better at accommodating a wider range of business sizes and product catalogs. In addition, Shopify provides a natural growth option via Shopify Plus, whereas Squarespace offers no enterprise-level plan at this time. On the other hand, if you happen to sell a handful of very expensive products (and that’s what makes your business “big”), Squarespace could still work swimmingly for you.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

Since Squarespace and Shopify are both SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, you only need a computer, an internet connection, and an up-to-date browser to use either service. Both also provide Android and iOS apps for managing and editing your store.

Regarding supported browsers, Squarespace edges out Shopify by offering Chrome and Safari support on Linux operating systems, while Shopify only works with Windows and Mac. Meanwhile, Shopify stores are optimized for Samsung Internet in addition to Chrome and Safari browsers when viewed on mobile. Depending on your point of view, these finer points may or may not make a difference, so I’m still calling it a draw in this category.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Shopify

With both platforms specializing in general ease of use, we really need to examine Squarespace and Shopify in terms of usability for ecommerce.

Neither platform has a dedicated setup tutorial inside the dashboard, but both have documentation and instructional videos handy. If you’re accustomed to using or testing popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace will definitely have its own learning curve. Once I got the hang of it, though, I could operate the backend quite smoothly.

When you create a trial account with Shopify, you’re taken to the main admin panel. Shopify’s admin is structured like most ecommerce dashboards I’ve seen. Although you can preview your storefront at any time, your backend functions are kept separate from the storefront.

Shopify Dashboard:

With Squarespace, however, you must choose a theme (you can change it later) before you even get to see your admin panel. Once the admin opens, your dashboard is actually a combination of your backend control panel on the left, and your storefront preview on the right.

Squarespace Dashboard:

Although I can vouch that both platforms are very easy to use in the grand scheme, I find navigation of Squarespace’s backend to be slightly trickier than Shopify’s. The Squarespace UI is structured so that there are more dashboard layers to dig through — and then dig back out of again. Additionally, the left control panel menu changes (or even disappears) depending on what layer you happen to be in at the moment, which can be disorienting. This is in contrast to Shopify’s menu, which remains a fixed anchor point for admin navigation.

Take a quick look at the following screens from each platform to see what I mean:

Add A Product — Shopify:

You can see above that my main menu remains fixed on the left side of the dashboard as I enter my product details.

Add A Product — Squarespace:

With Squarespace, I’m already a couple of dashboard layers in, my left sidebar is gone, and I must dive one more screen deep from here to even enter my price. Also, what is not shown above is that you can’t just jump right in and start adding products with Squarespace like you can with Shopify and other online store builders. Even with Squarespace’s ecommerce-friendly templates, you must create a separate product page for your website first. I admit I had to resort to Squarespace’s documentation to figure this out, since I’m accustomed to ecommerce dashboards that make adding your first product a completely frictionless process.

Adding and managing inventory is just one piece of running an online store, but it remains a reliable ease of use test case. While you can list unlimited products with Squarespace, I think the backend interface is better designed for sellers offering a relatively small number of aesthetically-oriented products. Merchants with a large inventory will appreciate Shopify’s clear menus, efficient navigation, and the way in which product data is ultimately organized.

Features

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the deserving winner in the features category. With solid out-of-the-box functionality and a rich add-on ecosystem, the blunt truth is that Shopify has spent much more time and resources cultivating features specifically for online sellers.

That said, there are a few features Squarespace offers that even Shopify lacks. Another thing to keep in mind is that Squarespace’s comparatively small feature set may still be just right for certain sizes and types of companies.

Key features of both platforms include:

  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and storage
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Sell physical or digital products
  • Shipping & accounting integrations
  • Inventory & order management
  • Offer gift cards
  • Create discounts and coupons
  • Checkout on your domain
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout & customer accounts
  • Real-time, carrier-calculated shipping
  • Analytics & reports
  • SEO tools

I’d say the Shopify versions of some of the above features are stronger or more versatile than the Squarespace versions. For example, the discount engine is much more flexible with Shopify.

Now, here are a few features that differentiate the two platforms:

Shopify

  • App store with thousands of integrations
  • Point of sale integration (Shopify POS or third-party POS)
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Proprietary shipping platform (Shopify Shipping) for carrier discounts and label printing
  • Extensive dropshipping capability
  • Enterprise expansion available via Shopify Plus
  • Abandoned cart recovery at cheaper plan level

Squarespace

  • Unlimited staff contributors on all ecommerce plans
  • G Suite integration (full year free)
  • $100 Google AdWords voucher
  • Free domain for a year if you pay annually
  • Customizable checkout forms
  • In-dashboard product image editing
  • Third-party calculated shipping rates at cheaper plan level

Web Design

Winner: Squarespace

Both platforms offer elegant, modern templates that are fully mobile responsive. Here’s a quick comparison of template stats:

Shopify Themes

  • 67 total templates, most with 2-4 style variations
  • 10 templates are free and supported by Shopify developers
  • Remaining third-party themes cost $140-$180

Squarespace Themes

  • 90 templates organized into 21 template families
  • All templates are free and supported by Squarespace developers

Within these themes, both platforms facilitate the adjustment of fonts, colors, and layouts without any coding experience. In fact, I’d say both services offer more flexibility in this area than the average ecommerce store builder. If you still run into design limitations or simply want to alter the code, each site builder makes it relatively easy to customize your store with HTML, CSS, and Javascript.

The overall web design winner is a tough one to call, because that decision really depends on the type and number of products you intend to sell, with Squarespace catering to smaller catalogs with visual interest. If we were deciding strictly based on the variety of pre-made templates designed for stores selling lots of stuff, Shopify would snag the win.

That said, here are some ways Squarespace stands out when it comes to design:

  • All templates are free, and all are created and supported by Squarespace.
  • Offers a more versatile drag-and-drop editor for page layout customization.
  • Allows you to edit your product images from within your dashboard.
  • Uses a common templating language (JSON), versus Shopify’s own invented language (Liquid).

Was this category too close to call? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

Shopify has an impressive app store with around 2500 integrations — more than the vast majority of SaaS ecommerce platforms at large. While add-ons can certainly increase your monthly expenditure with Shopify, there’s no denying that your choices are plentiful. Plus, since a huge community of developers and merchants interact with Shopify apps, you also have access to thousands upon thousands of detailed user reviews.

Squarespace takes a completely different approach to integrations. No app store is offered, but Squarespace spins this as an advantage. Any pre-built integrations (about 70 in total) are already incorporated into your dashboard and fully tech-supported by Squarespace. Aside from payment providers (Stripe, PayPal, Apple Pay) and shipping carriers (UPS, USPS, and FedEx), there are just a small handful of official Squarespace integrations specifically related to ecommerce. Here are a few key add-ons:

  • ShipStation: Order fulfillment
  • Xero: Accounting
  • MailChimp: Email marketing
  • Zapier: Workflow automation, multi-app connector

Just like many Shopify apps, several Squarespace apps have monthly subscription fees of their own. And, just like with Shopify, you can always build custom integrations if you have those skills or can hire someone who does. To put things in quick perspective, however, Squarespace has one official shipping/fulfillment app in ShipStation. Shopify has over 280 choices in its “Orders & Shipping” category, and over 600 results pop up if I simply type “shipping” in the app store’s search bar.

The win in this category goes to Shopify, the reigning monarch of ecommerce integrations. Besides keeping decision-making overload at bay, the trick with Shopify add-ons is to always check the quality (including quality of developer support) and ongoing cost of each integration.

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

Shopify wins at payment processing for one primary reason: flexibility. Consider the sheer number of gateway options with Shopify — over 100. With Squarespace, Stripe and PayPal are your only choices. More gateway options means availability in more countries and currencies, more ways for your customers to pay, better odds of finding the perfect processor for your specific needs, and even the opportunity to customize your own pricing model and rates in some cases. With Shopify, you can also accept cryptocurrencies or set up manual payment methods like cash on delivery, money orders, and bank transfers.

This is not the end of the story, however. Factor in the additional transaction fees that may be charged by either platform depending on your situation, as well as Shopify’s payment processing discounts with Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe), and the comparison becomes more nuanced.

As we examine these complications further, keep in mind that the going rate to process ecommerce transactions with most gateways these days is 2.9% + $0.30.

Here’s how your processing will work with Squarespace according to your subscription level:

Squarespace + PayPal and/or Stripe

  • Business ($26/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 3.0% Squarespace fee = 5.9% + $0.30 per transaction
  • Commerce Basic ($30/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Commerce Advanced ($46/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30

Those are the only potential processing costs you’re looking at with Squarespace. That additional 3.0% Squarespace fee on the Business plan is pretty brutal, but as soon as you upgrade to Commerce Basic for an extra $4/month, it disappears. For this reason, I don’t think the Business plan is a sustainable option for most ecommerce stores.

Now, let’s take a quick look at Shopify, remembering that using Shopify Payments as your gateway provides two perks: 1) no extra Shopify transaction fee on any plan, and 2) decreased payment processing fees as you upgrade your overall Shopify subscription.

Shopify + Shopify Payments

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.6% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.4% + $0.30

Shopify + Alternative Gateway (Generic Example)

  • Basic ($29/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 2.0% Shopify fee = 4.9% + $0.30
  • Shopify ($79/mo.): 2.9% + $0.30, + 1.0% Shopify fee = 3.9% + $0.30
  • Advanced ($299/mo.): 2.9% + 0.30, + 0.5% Shopify fee = 3.4% + $0.30

Another twist is that Shopify Payments is currently only available for businesses located in 10 countries, so you’re stuck with an alternative gateway and that pesky Shopify transaction fee if your country isn’t included. (Squarespace at least doesn’t punish you for something you can’t control — your location.) On the flip side, if you are in one of the supported countries, you could opt to use Shopify Payments in addition to any of the other gateways Shopify offers to increase your customers’ payment options.

In a perfect world, both platforms would let you pick your own processor from among many, and never penalize you with extra transaction fees for any reason! Both Shopify and Squarespace have their own flaws in this regard.

So, what does this all mean for your business? The short answer is math. To determine the real winner in this category for your own company, you must consider your monthly subscription cost to either platform, your average number of transactions per month, and your average transaction size — not to mention the countries and currencies involved. Because the best platform and subscription level for your business depends on these and other factors, I award Shopify the payment processing win for at least making things interesting!

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

In terms of overall quality of customer support, both Shopify and Squarespace receive mixed user reviews. That said, Merchant Maverick’s own experiences with customer service and technical support would award Shopify the victory in this category. We’ve had better luck contacting the Shopify support team through the available channels — even when they’ve been unaware that we are software reviewers on the prowl.

Shopify also has more available support channels and more open-hours. Take a look:

Shopify

  • Phone: 24/7
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: 24/7

Squarespace

  • Phone: None
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: Monday-Friday, 4AM-8PM

Squarespace publishes a whole manifesto on its website explaining why no phone support is offered if you’d like to read it for yourself. Although they don’t come right out and say it, the bottom line is that this helps keep overall costs down. Meanwhile, not being able to contact a live person (even via live chat) after 5pm Pacific time is pretty brutal if you’re running an online store. Squarespace should know better — ecommerce never sleeps:

One final note in this category: both platforms provide several self-help resources — community forums, blogs, video tutorials, webinars, knowledgebase articles, and the like. However, note that Shopify resources are 100% geared toward ecommerce, whereas you’ll have to wade through other topics to find ecommerce resources at the Squarespace site.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Squarespace

When comparing user reviews for these platforms, it’s important to keep in mind the difficulty in teasing out feedback on Squarespace that is specifically related to ecommerce. Despite its growing ecommerce capability, Squarespace typically ends up in the generic website builder category on most review sites, with users discussing traditional website building issues.

Those caveats aside, here are some of the most common issues that come up for each platform:

Shopify

  • Extra transaction fees when not using Shopify Payments
  • Costly add-ons
  • Poor customer support
  • Frustration with Shopify Payments

Squarespace

  • Glitches & bugs
  • Poor/limited customer support
  • Limited theme customization

Of course, traditional website builders tend to get raked over the coals for the slightest theme customization limitations. We’ve already said Squarespace’s design capability is quite good overall, particularly when compared to a lot of shopping cart builders. When customers do criticize Squarespace specifically on ecommerce, there are no consistent patterns emerging so far. For this reason, I award this category to Squarespace based on a “no news is good news” argument. We’ll keep checking back for patterns.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Shopify and Squarespace tend to rate highly for overall customer satisfaction on user review websites. On top of that, both platforms are known for their ease of use and elegant templates. And, along with all the negative review of customer support both software programs have received, users of both platforms have been known to also sing praises for customer support. The combination of these factors led me to call this one a draw.

Once again, we’re faced with the dilemma that there’s not a whole lot of feedback about Squarespace’s ecommerce offerings. I have definitely seen several generic comments, such as “good for ecommerce!” Honestly, I think people are mostly pleased (and perhaps a bit surprised) that there’s some solid ecommerce capability available with Squarespace at all. I haven’t come across many users directly comparing their experiences with the two platforms.

Security

Winner: Shopify

Our combatants are quite close in this category. Both offer PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance, a free SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate for your site, two-factor authentication for logging in to your account, a CDN (Content Delivery Network), and even provide methods for complying with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws implemented by the EU in 2018.

The main difference I can see is that Shopify’s checkout pages are covered by an industry-standard, 256-bit shared SSL certificate. Squarespace’s checkout pages are covered by a less-robust, 128-bit certificate. My understanding is that while 128-bit encryption may end up working slightly faster, it’s technically less secure.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

Squarespace put up a good fight in several categories, but Shopify emerges victorious as the better ecommerce website builder. Shopify’s pricing, core feature set, and vast app store can serve budding sellers on the Lite plan, all the way up to enterprise clients using Shopify Plus. Meanwhile, ecommerce was quite literally an afterthought for Squarespace. The platform’s developers have done an admirable job adding features for online selling, but they just can’t compete with Shopify’s dominance here.

As we’ve said time and again in this comparison, Squarespace still provides an interesting option for sellers who’d like to feature a small number of products with aesthetic appeal. Especially if you’ve already been using Squarespace to develop your company story and brand, I’d definitely recommend fully exploring the ecommerce feature set — perhaps by bumping up your subscription for just month or two — before completely abandoning ship for Shopify or another dedicated shopping cart builder.

I’ll offer one more interesting twist before you head off to test Shopify and/or Squarespace for yourself. Some users have actually used the two services in combination. How? By integrating those “buy now” buttons from a $9/month Shopify Lite plan into an existing Squarespace website. It’s a roundabout option, to be sure, but it also gives you access to in-person selling with the Shopify POS app. At any rate, take that as some final food for thought, and best of luck in your search for the perfect ecommerce platform.

The post Shopify VS Squarespace appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square Loyalty Program Review

Square Loyalty Promotional Image

The concept of a punch card is nothing new; coffee shops the world over have been slinging their punched out business cards alongside foamy espresso beverages for decades. Likewise, the concept of companies offering rewards to returning companies goes way back into the annals of entrepreneurship. But as the business sector dives further into the capabilities of digital tools, loyalty programs have come along for the ride.

Square has been tinkering with loyalty features since 2012. About two years ago, they stopped offering a free add-on to the basic Square POS, creating a paid-for loyalty product instead. After some concerns about that initial re-launch, Square Loyalty is back again with a new pricing scheme and feature list.

Square has consistently expanded its business products and generally does a decent job at creating useful tools that people feel confident implementing in their businesses. How well does the new version of Square Loyalty measure up? Let’s find out!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

Pricing

The price of Square Loyalty is determined by how many “loyalty visits” you get in a given month. A loyalty visit is exactly what it sounds like: whenever a customer signs up for or returns to your loyalty program, that counts as one visit. Square tracks your visits, then charges you based on the following pricing scheme:

Loyalty Visits Price Per Month
1-50 $25
50-100 $35
101-200 $50
201-500 $75
501-1,000 $125
1,001-2,500 $175
2,501-5,000 $250
5,001-10,000 $500

If you think you will require more than 10,000 loyalty visits in a single month, you will need to get in touch with Square for more information on exact pricing.

Ease Of Use

The team at Square has built their brand on the simplicity of their software; just about anyone can pick Square up and use it with little-to-no training. Not surprisingly, the loyalty rewards program operates with the same simplistic design. This is a system designed for intuitive use on both sides of the register for customers and employees alike. As long as you already use Square products for payment processing and point of sale, this will work just fine for you.

Setting up your rewards account is as simple as determining the economy of your rewards points (how many should customers get after a visit?) and creating the rewards themselves (how will customers spend their points once they have accumulated?). From there, you can refine your system as time goes on, making adjustments as needed–you will want to be clear with your customers about what is going on, though!

On the customer side, simply have new program members enter their phone numbers to sign up. From then on, your Square Register will remember the customer and apportion their points on subsequent views. Speaking as one who has encountered Square loyalty rewards in the wild, I can report that the system works well, and is even a little exciting!

Features

Square Loyalty comes with the following features:

  • Points System: You get to pick between three different loyalty schemes: by visit, by amount spent, or by item. Customers will get text message updates on the number of points they have built up. Basically, your decision for which system to use will come down to your industry and business model. Selling beverages or baked goods? Visit-based rewards might be best. Working retail? Amount-based might be best. Selling niche products? You might want to go by item.
  • Customer Rewards: You can select three different kinds of rewards that align vaguely with the three different loyalty schemes: free item, discount on the entire sale, or discount on a product category. Obviously, some business types will find one of these systems more useful than others; it’s up to you to determine which will be best for you.
  • Customer Data: Once your customers sign up for loyalty rewards, you can begin tracking information about them. In some industries — coffee shops, for example — you get to know repeat customers quickly as a matter of course. In others, it may be valuable indeed to know a bit more about your clientele, particularly things like their most purchased items and how often they visit your shop.
  • Analytics: Square gives you a bird’s eye view of how your loyalty program is helping your business, showing data on all your customers and how often they visit your shop. You can see how many people use your loyalty rewards, how many points they have, and more. This is the feature that will tell you how well your loyalty program is working, so I definitely recommend checking this out.

Final Thoughts

Square boasts that customers who enroll in their loyalty programs spend 37% more than non-enrolled customers. A cynical person might point out that the kind of person who signs up for a loyalty program would be automatically more likely to spend more at a particular store than other, but at the same time, 37% is difficult to argue with.

But is Square’s loyalty feature ultimately worth the price? I definitely found the monthly cost a bit prohibitive; $50 for just over 50 loyalty visits is a lot. It is possible that at higher subscription levels the price comes down and makes more economic sense, but in order for that to be true, you will need more customers to sign up.

On the other hand, from what I can tell, the feature set works reasonably well — especially when you consider how closely it plays with Square’s flagship POS product. That right there might make it worth it to stop and consider coughing up the cash, especially if you are using one of those snazzy new Square Registers. I suspect many Square Loyalty users hop on board the hype train for this very reason; they are already using some kind of Square product in the first place. In fact, one of the biggest caveats to Square Loyalty (apart from price) is the fact that in order to use it, you will have to already be using Square POS (at the very least); if you have a different system, this is not the loyalty program you have been looking for.

As usual, the final decision comes down to you. Are you using a Square product? Is the touted increase in customer engagement worth what might be an excessive price? Fortunately, you can give it a try before deciding for sure. Be warned though! Though Square provides a generous 30-day trial, your customers may feel less than generous if they discover that your rewards program has up and disappeared just as they were about to redeem one of their rewards. Tread carefully then, and make sure you are confident in your decisions before committing even to the free trial.

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

The post Square Loyalty Program Review appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Explained

WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Explained

Choosing the best web hosting plan for your specific project has always been a bit confusing. Plan features never line up. Terminology never matches. And pricing varies according to current discounts and plan length.

But that was before the latest trend – WordPress-specific hosting plans.

Nearly every hosting company offers a “WordPress Hosting Plan” in some form.

Sometimes those plans are nothing more than a headline change. Sometimes they very well-priced for the extra services. And sometimes they are plainly upsells with dressed up “features.”

It’s maddening – because here’s the thing. WordPress software runs fine on typical web hosting.

You do not need “WordPress Hosting” to run WordPress software. All you need is a Linux-based hosting account that supports PHP and mySQL.

Both are run of the mill features since the early 2000s. So what’s with all the WordPress Hosting plans vs. Web Hosting plans?

Well – sometimes a WordPress-specific plan is absolutely worth paying for. WordPress does have some needs & requirements that are not “generic” so some companies can offer seriously better service, support & performance for WordPress installs.

Here’s how they differ along with features worth paying for, and what to look for when shopping for the right host for your specific project and next steps.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this site. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or as a consultant to a paying customer.

WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Overview

WordPress software will run fine on standard Web Hosting. In fact, most companies offer an auto-installer to make the process easy.

However, WordPress Hosting plans should provide features that…

  1. The hosting company can provide better at a “global level” than you can.
  2. The hosting company can use to provide consistency.
  3. The hosting company can provide as a bundle that is a better value than you can buy individually.

If a WordPress Hosting plan does not do any of those three conditions AND charges more money – then it’s a bad deal.

That said, do not throw out all WordPress Hosting plans as overpriced upsells. Some are worthwhile and some are amazing. Your goal as a customer is to understand what features you actually need.

WordPress Hosting Features Considered

There is a myriad of features that hosting companies will bundle (or highlight) in their sales material. Here are a few of the broad feature categories to consider with WordPress Hosting.

I’ll also point out how you can do the same thing on standard web hosting.

Speed & Performance

There are a ton of variables that affect website speed. There is no single factor that makes your website “fast” – especially with WordPress.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting means that your account shares a server with other WordPress installs.

This means a few things –

  1. The server’s resource usage is more predictable.
  2. The server’s configuration can be more specific.
  3. Upgrades can happen faster, due to #1 and #2.

Different hosting companies will go further than others on their configuration.

It’s usually hard to tell who actually does what though. It’s important to read the fine print to see what they *actually* do.

If you see things like “increased PHP memory” or “NGINX” or “PHP7” – then you know that they have made special considerations for an advanced WordPress configuration.

Now, there are companies like SiteGround, InMotion, and Bluehost that all have a strong bias toward WordPress in their standard web hosting. Often, their standard web hosting will be “better” for a WordPress install than some hosting companies’ “WordPress Hosting.”

Lastly, there are companies like WP Engine and Flywheel that *only* do WordPress installs. WordPress is their one thing. They are able to customize their servers to force speed considerations at the global server level rather than at the install level.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

So all that sounds great, but the open secret about WordPress speed is that you can do 90% of a specialized WordPress hosting plan on a solid, but standard hosting account.

Think of it as buying a house that is good for “entertaining guests.” Sure – there are some houses that come prebuilt with a nice kitchen, a good deck, and comfortable furniture. But you can create a great house for “entertaining guests” on your own – provided you have a generally solid house.

Most hosting companies allow changes to PHP version and extra allocation of memory.

If your server has a solid response time, then you can do almost all the caching that you need via a plugin.

If you take the time to understand all the variables of website speed, then you’ll be fine with a standard (and cheaper) shared hosting account.

In fact, most hosting companies allow even advanced configurations like NGINX on VPS accounts.

In the end, you are paying for convenience with a WordPress Hosting plan. They bundle many performance features that you can assemble on your own with standard web hosting.

That said, there can be a real difference in raw configuration and resource allocation, which we will look at next.

Configuration & Resource Allocation

Like I mentioned earlier, the core difference between a “WordPress Hosting” plan and a standard “Web Hosting” plan for the hosting company is that they know what will be running on a specific server.

Since they know what will be running, they can configure the server and allocate resources specifically for WordPress.

Some of these features will be near useless (like auto-installing “common” plugins). But some can be useful and worth the money for some.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

A WordPress Hosting plan can pre-configure many web technologies for quick setup within WordPress.

For example, using an SSL with WordPress is not super-complicated, but it does need many steps. A WordPress hosting plan can provide a pre-configured setup.

Same with a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can speed up content delivery around the world.

It’s not super-hard to integrate one with WordPress, but it does need some steps. A WordPress Hosting plan can automatically “hook one up.”

The same goes for a staging site (ie, “test site that syncs with your live site) or memory allocation or auto installers.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

The thing about resource allocation and configuration is that you are straight-up paying for convenience.

That’s not a bad thing – often convenience is worth it. But before purchasing a plan because it promises “WordPress features” – it’s important to remember that there’s rarely a feature that you can’t reproduce on standard web hosting.

For example, many hosting companies cap allocated memory, but you are free to increase it via an edit in wp-config.php. It might require looking up a tutorial or using a 3rd party service, but it is possible.

Sometimes that’s an upsell, but sometimes convenience is the difference between bad site or a good site – as in the case of security.

Security & Vulnerabilities

WordPress security sounds complicated and scary, but it does not have to be.

WordPress is inherently secure. WordPress has notoriety with security because it’s so popular. It’s a big target. It also allows anyone to install any “plugin software” that can create vulnerabilities.

Securing your website is a bit like securing your house. You can never guarantee against a break-in but you can become less of a target.

Practicing basic precautions will protect against most attacks. But it’s important to maintain a backup in case someone *really* wants to break-in.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

Like resource allocation, WordPress Hosting plans provide hosting companies with predictability so that they can provide the same custom maintenance to all their accounts.

They can secure all their servers running WordPress to protect against WordPress-specific threats.

They can do bulk upgrades and instantly apply security patches. They can identify vulnerabilities across many accounts.

In other words, they can provide routine maintenance services since they are maintaining all their WordPress accounts as one.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

That said, most all WordPress Hosting-specific services are routine. They are rarely “above and beyond.”

Just because you have a WordPress Hosting plan does not mean that security is “done.” You still need strong passwords. You need to maintain reputable (and ideally, minimal) plugins.

WordPress Hosting services might take care of routine maintenance, but that’s something that you can easily do on your own.

The key security difference between the two is, again, convenience. But – it’s convenience that leads to habits. Practicing security means having secure habits.

If you are the type of person who needs convenience & ease of use for good habits, then you’ll appreciate WordPress Hosting plans’ security features.

If you are the type of person who sets up systems and habits (and you will be actively using your site) – then you can re-create every security feature on standard web hosting.

In fact, sometimes you can do security even better with a 3rd party plugin. I use the one from JetPack (maintained by WordPress.com) that does security scanning, automates updates and does backups all in one.

Either way – it’s important to think critically about what you personally need.

Customer Service & Support

Understanding your needs & habits factors into customer service & support as well.

It’s easy to dismiss customer support until you need it. And you will need it working with WordPress. WordPress has a lot of moving parts that can create issues quickly.

Since WordPress is free, community-supported software, it does not have professional support bundled with installation.

When you install WordPress software, you are relying on your own troubleshooting ability. You “own” any problems with it.

Your hosting company’s support usually only covers problems with your hosting account – not the software on your hosting account.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

When a hosting company sells a “WordPress Hosting” plan – they usually make some sort of promise to provide software support…to a point.

And the “point” depends on your hosting company. It’s important to read the exact text to see how far their commitment goes.

A WordPress Hosting specialist like WP Engine or Flywheel will often take ownership of your issues and simply solve it.

Some hosting companies will simply guarantee that your rep is trained on WordPress issues.

It all depends.

*Side note – this is WordPress.com’s main pitch. They are the commercial side of the WordPress software community. They do provide WordPress-only support to the software & hosting bundle. I wrote about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress software here.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

WordPress drives a *ton* of business to many hosting companies. Many hosting companies are basically WordPress Hosting companies by default.

If you go with a hosting company like SiteGround, InMotion Hosting or Bluehost – then your tech support rep will be proficient in common WordPress issues.

Additionally, you can always make use of Google, the WordPress.org forums, paid support via JetPack, or many of the premium plugin providers.

Your support journey might take a few stops, but it’s free and open. And sometimes it’s higher quality since you “own” the issue and are learning more about your site.

Either way, the choice comes down to the price of convenience. Do you want a single, go-to support option (WordPress Hosting plan) or do you want to put your own system together (standard Web Hosting)?

Software & Bonus Features

This balance between choosing your own 3rd party software and bundling extends to software and bonus features.

Many WordPress Hosting plans offer lots of bundled software with WordPress. They might have premium themes, plugins or even SSL certificates or CDN subscriptions. It’s all quite attractive.

The important thing here is, again, choosing convenience over control. And thinking through exactly what you want.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

With WordPress Hosting plans, their bundled services usually work well. They are simple to install and come at an attractive price.

With an SSL, you can quickly secure your site without going through a 3rd party.

With a CDN, you can speed up your site without the confusing setups and API keys.

With a theme collection subscription, you get access to a range of designs for free.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

On the flip side, you can usually get all the software and bonus features bundled with WordPress Hosting for a better price if you put in the time and planning.

Theme makers are a dime a dozen. You find exactly what you are looking for and buy one a la carte somewhere on the Internet. Same with plugins.

SSLs, CDNs, and other bonus features are available somewhere for the price and selection that you want.

For example, I wanted an Extended Validation SSL for this site – I had to get it from a 3rd party rather than my hosting company. I decided that I wanted to use MaxCDN rather than CloudFlare. That kind of thing.

If you want to use the products bundled with WordPress Hosting plans, then factor that into your decision.

But if you know that you want different software anyway, then be sure to add it to the “total cost of ownership” with your WordPress Hosting plan.

WordPress Hosting Providers Overview

I have tried out a lot of hosting companies as a consultant and as a customer. Most of my projects use WordPress, though I usually work with standard web hosting installs.

Here’s an overview of some of the well-known brands that I’ve used. Skip to next steps here.

InMotion WordPress Hosting

InMotion is a fast growing independent hosting company. I use them for this site. They are reworking their WordPress plans, but right now they are a focused version of their Business Hosting plans. InMotion provides WordPress-focused support regardless of plan. They do bundle a drag-and-drop builder with WordPress Hosting plans. Worthwhile plans.

Read my InMotion review.

See InMotion Hosting plans.

Bluehost WordPress Hosting

Bluehost is the big brand in the WordPress world. Bluehost’s WordPress Hosting plans are pricey. But – they do add a lot of value – including running WordPress on an NGINX VPS platform.

Read my Bluehost review.

See Bluehost Hosting plans.

SiteGround WordPress Hosting

SiteGround is a fast-growing independent hosting company. I use them for several side projects. Like InMotion, they are reworking their WordPress plans. But right now, they bundle free CDN and NGINX settings. They also have a one-click staging setup for WordPress. Worthwhile plans.

Read my SiteGround review.

See SiteGround Hosting plans.

WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine was the first “Managed WordPress” hosting company. They only do WordPress. Due to that specialization, they offer a lot of unique features that are worth their pricing. Worthwhile plans.

Read my WP Engine review.

See WP Engine WordPress Hosting plans.

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

GoDaddy is the big brand in the web hosting space. Their WordPress Hosting plans are fine, but overpriced IMO given the value-adds.

Read one of my GoDaddy reviews.

See GoDaddy Hosting plans.

HostGator WordPress Hosting

HostGator is a well-known budget brand. They are sister companies with Bluehost. HostGator’s WordPress Hosting is a rebranded form of their Cloud Hosting. Cloud Hosting is a bit of a different beast. Basically, HostGator hands your install to Amazon/Google/etc for a flat rate and a usable dashboard. It’s interesting, but not comparable to other WordPress Hosting plans.

Read one of my HostGator reviews.

See HostGator Hosting plans.

iPage WordPress Hosting

iPage is another well-known budget focused host. They are also sister companies with Bluehost. Their WordPress Hosting plans are web hosting plans with pre-installed software.

Read my iPage review.

See iPage Hosting plans.

WordPress.com WordPress Hosting

WordPress.com is a commercial website builder owned by Automattic and running only on WordPress software. They bundle hosting, software and support into a single package. Their founder, Matt Mullenweg, wrote the original WordPress software. If you want a more controlled but sleeker experience, WordPress.com is where you go.

Read my WordPress.com review.

See WordPress.com Hosting plans.

Next Steps

The short version of WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting is one of convenience vs. control.

If the convenience of WordPress Hosting is worth the higher price point, then go for it. It’s worth it. One of my clients swears by his plan and his ability to “just pick up the phone and have it fixed.”

If you are sticking with a budget or simply want more control over 3rd party services, then be confident in your decision to use standard web hosting. WordPress was built for everyone. It does not need and will not need specialized hosting services to run well.

You might be interested in my Best WordPress Hosting Quiz here or my WordPress setup guide here.

I also wrote an explainer to explain what is WordPress hosting here.

Good luck!

The post WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Zoho Books VS Wave

ZohoBooks-vs-Wave

Zoho Books VS Wave

Accounting

✓

✓

Features

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

✓

Users & Permissions

Ease of Use

✓

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Integrations

✓

Security

?

Final Verdict

?

When you think of accounting software, you usually think of big names like Xero or QuickBooks. But what about the programs that are designed specifically with the small business owner in mind? In this post, we’re going to put two of the top small business accounting software programs face to face: Zoho Books and Wave.

Redesigned in 2014, Zoho Books is a scalable, full-featured accounting software that even gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. The software has only improved over the years. It features beautiful invoicing, strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, and decent integrations. It also gives users the unique ability to send invoices in over 10 different languages.

Wave is free accounting software that has only gotten better as time goes on. The software has grown to support over 3.5 million users and offers a robust feature set with unique additions like lending, scheduling recurring invoices by timezone, and a brand-new light ecommerce tool. The software also offers professional bookkeeping services and supports personal and business accounting.

But which service comes out on top? And more importantly, which is right for your business?

Read on to find out.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong accounting features. Each software uses double-entry accounting and offers both cash-basis and accrual accounting. Both support accounting reports, a customizable chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, and fixed asset management.

The two are almost neck and neck in this area, although Wave sets itself apart by having recently added an additional bookkeeping service called Wave+ where users can purchase additional accounting help from professional bookkeepers. Wave also has built-in personal accounting tools.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books Features Wave

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Multiple Invoice Languages

✘

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✓

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart Of Accounts

✓

✓

Fixed Asset Management

✓

✓

Contact Management

✓

✓

Accounts Payable

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✘

✓

Inventory

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

eCommerce Checkouts

✓

✓

Tracking Categories

✘

✓

Multi-Currency Support

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Tax Support

✘

✓

Importing & Exporting

✓

✘

Lending

✓

Zoho Books and Wave have a lot of similar features. Both offer expense tracking, invoicing, contact management, and more. The difference is the depth and functionality of these features.

While Wave has a strong feature set and unique additions like a lightweight ecommerce tool and lending, Zoho Books’ features are far more advanced. Zoho Books offers some of the best invoicing on the market with 15 different templates and international invoicing. The software also offers project management (which Wave lacks entirely), better inventory, better time tracking, and better reporting, making it the clear winner here.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Zoho Books offers three scalable pricing plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Wave is completely free. The only additional costs are payroll, payment processing, and Wave+.

When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free. And unlike most free software, Wave doesn’t put artificial limits on features like invoicing and estimates. You get complete access to fully-functioning features for $0/month. Another point in favor of Wave is that the software actually offers payroll. The service may cost extra, but in contrast, Zoho Books doesn’t have any payroll support or payroll integrations.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, both Zoho Books and Wave work with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Zoho Books

Depending on your plan, Zoho Books supports between 1 and 10 users, although you can purchase additional users for an extra cost. The software offers very basic user permissions. Wave is designed for the small business owner, meaning there are no additional users. You can technically invite “collaborators” who can have “view-only” or “view & edit” access to your Wave account, but the features they are able to access are limited, making Zoho Books the winner here.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Wave

Both Wave and Zoho Books are easy to use. They each have a modern UI that is well-organized, and setup is quick. However, because of Zoho Books’ sheer number of features, the software is a bit harder to navigate and get used to. Wave, on the other hand, is easy enough for anyone to use, no matter what their accounting background (or lack thereof) looks like.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

It’s no question that Zoho Books is the winner here. Zoho Books has always been known for strong, fully-featured mobile apps. Their Android and iPhone apps receive high ratings across the board, and the company supports smartwatch, Microsoft, and Kindle apps as well.

Wave’s mobile apps could stand improvement. Right now, there are two separate apps, one for invoices and one for receipts. Existing Wave users complain that they want one, full-featured app.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers the most excellent customer support by far. Zoho Books’ phone support has hardly any wait times, and in my experience, representatives are friendly and helpful. The company also has an expansive help center, email, live chat, videos, and more.

While Wave does offer good resources like a well-developed help center and strong blog, you can only contact Wave support by email (unless you purchase payroll or credit card processing, in which case you get phone and chat support). Wave’s email response times often take over a day.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave receive mostly positive customer reviews from satisfied customers. They have a similar ratio of negative to positive reviews, resulting in a tie for this section.

The few complaints Zoho Books users have are about the lack of payroll and limited integrations. Complaints about Wave revolve around poor mobile apps, limited integrations, and limited features.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave have many satisfied customers and high customer ratings. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd, while Wave receives 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd and 9/10 stars on TrustRadius.

Zoho Books users appreciate the software’s ease of use, strong mobile apps, affordable price plans, and constant updates. Wave users praise the software for its ease of use, free price, personal accounting, and feature selection.

Integrations

Winner: Tie

Zoho Books offers 33 integrations while Wave only has 3 integrations. However, both Zoho Books users and Wave users complain about a lack of integrations. Each software’s saving grace is that they both connect with Zapier, an integration that connects them to 1000+ other third-party apps.

Security

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong security. Each uses 256-bit SSL encryption, regular data backups, and 24/7 data monitoring. We gave Zoho Books the victory in this section because Zoho Books is far more forthcoming about their security information so users can be 100% confident that their data is protected.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS Wave

Wave is powerful software that puts up quite the fight, but it just doesn’t have the features and capabilities of Zoho Books — at least not yet. A more robust feature set, strong mobile apps, more integrations, forthright security, and excellent customer service give Zoho Books the advantage.

Zoho Books is ideal for small to medium businesses in need of strong accounting that want the capabilities of QuickBooks Online without having to pay the price. Zoho Books is an affordable QBO alternative with a robust feature set and some of the best invoicing on the market, which is why we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Invoicing. Zoho Books’ invoicing features make it ideal for business in need of international invoicing. The only drawback is the lack of payroll, which could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.

If your business does need payroll or if you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave might be the better choice for your business. Wave is ideal for small business owners looking for easy bookkeeping software to manage their businesses with. There’s a reason we’ve named it the Best Free Accounting Software. Wave has an impressive features set — particularly for a free app — and offers a few key additions that Zoho Books lacks(payroll, lending, and the brand new eCommerce checkouts tool). It also has a strong Etsy integration, making it ideal for Etsy sellers.

Maybe after reading about Zoho Books and Wave, neither option seems like the perfect fit for your business. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the best software for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and Wave reviews for more information. Take advantage of Zoho Books’ free trial or start a free account with Wave to get a feel for each software, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

The post Zoho Books VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review_ Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy

GoDaddy is one of the world’s largest “web services” companies. Although they were founded as a domain registrar, they provide a whole range of services from web hosting to website builders accounting to email to digital storage to online security and much more.

See GoDaddy’s Current Plans & Pricing…

Over the years, you’ve probably seen GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercials, GoDaddy girls all around the Internet, and most recently their “Helping Small Business” commercials. They have brand recognition if nothing else.

With the popularity of using WordPress for setting up websites, GoDaddy has made a big product push for their “WordPress Hosting” product.

Like any product, there will be tradeoffs, advantages and disadvantages – depending on your particular goals, preferences, and resources. However, this product not only competes with other competitors but also with GoDaddy’s own regular web hosting product.

So. Here are GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting pros, cons, how it compares to “regular” web hosting, and next steps.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data and opinions are based on my experience as either a paying customer or a consultant to a paying customer.

GoDaddy Managed WordPress Hosting vs. Web or “Regular” Hosting

Here’s the thing. The entire industry move to “WordPress Hosting” services is kind of a weird, confusing, maddening mess. I’ve written an entire post on Web Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting, Explained – but here’s the short version.

  1. WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux server with PHP (aka “regular shared hosting).
  2. Again – WordPress can (and does) run just fine on web hosting.
  3. WordPress does use some server resources at an above average rate and others at a lower rate.
  4. WordPress also has very predictable problems & needs. It needs to be regularly updated. Some plugins create temporary security vulnerabilities.
  5. So – hosting companies saw an opportunity to create whole clusters of servers with only WordPress websites.
  6. Since they were all together, they could also provide dedicated support and some add-on services at a cost-effective rate.
  7. Hence, “WordPress Hosting” plans were created – which added a further opportunity for marketers & pricing specialists.

For some companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to increase revenue and decrease costs with little value-added. For other companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to create a huge value-add to differentiate from competitors and pass the cost savings to customers. For other companies – it was a mix. And in the end, it’s been thoroughly confusing for everyone.

But – the key takeaway is to identify your own needs & goals rather than going right for a company’s “WordPress Hosting” plan.

These pros & cons of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting will look at the tradeoffs between both GoDaddy’s web hosting plans and direct competitors in the WordPress Hosting space.

7 Pros of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

Here are the 7 big advantages that GoDaddy has with WordPress Hosting.

Sticker Pricing

Their plans start at $8.99/mo at renewal – and go up to $19.99/mo at renewal. Additionally, GoDaddy is always running sales & promotions, so you’re likely able to lock-in even cheaper pricing for over a year. Sometimes, you can even lock-in a $1/per month pricing.

Current pricing & promotion.

Even though GoDaddy’s specialty is not hosting (they started as a domain registrar) – they are using their capital and market presence to really push down on prices.

If you go with them, you won’t have to worry if you are paying too much. Their WordPress Hosting prices are somewhat fudged by total value pricing (see disadvantages) but if you are looking for the cheapest option to get started – you won’t find anyone cheaper in the short-term.

Key WordPress Hosting Features

One key pricing difference between regular web hosting plans and WordPress hosting plans is the pricing per visits vs pricing per features.

In other words, instead of looking at memory, databases, etc – companies simply promise to serve an estimated number of visitors.

GoDaddy Limitations

In other words – you are paying for results rather than features.

Like any subscription, you will be technically overpaying for the features you get…but that also assumes that you know how to use the features in the first place. There are tons of ways to speed up & make WordPress more efficient – but, there’s also a lot of value in letting someone else just do it for you.

For example, I once managed 10,000 visitors in a single day on my shared HostGator server with some heavy caching and lean plugin usage. I also routinely took this site past 50,000 monthly visitors on a regular shared InMotion Hosting server. I saved a ton of money using regular web hosting and adding a simple caching plugin like WP Super Cache or WP Fastest Cache…but I also like doing that kind of thing.

On the flip side, I have a client who cares exactly 0% about WordPress – but likes the platform and just wants to publish his content. He pays $$$ not just for WordPress Hosting but Managed WordPress Hosting at WP Engine – which charges a pretty penny.

Additionally, GoDaddy provides SFTP and staging areas on their upper plans. They also provide WordPress specific support. It’s nothing amazing (which I’ll cover in the disadvantages) – but they take care of the key features.

Backend & Usability

One of the *the* biggest hurdles for new website owners is the learning curve of a new setup. Running your own website can be daunting – and dealing with settings, drop-downs, and jargon only adds to the stress of actually running your website.

Backend design, usability, and “onboarding” help a ton with this problem. GoDaddy has made serious improvements in this area over the past 10 years. Even with a sprawling product line-up, they still make it pretty straightforward to shop, purchase and get on with your project.

Their WordPress Hosting product does away with some WordPress installation headaches on web hosting and provides a good setup to get on with your project.

The simplicity is a big advantage compared to their web hosting product and their design is a big advantage compared to their technically-oriented competitors.

Product Integration

Full disclosure, I’m a fan of buying your domain and email services separately from web hosting (ie, I use NameCheap for long-term domains & Google Apps for email hosting). It provides diversification – and allows you to choose providers that focus on a specific product.

But, having one company manage your domain name, email, and hosting can make things much more convenient. Several of my friends & clients do this – and it works well for them. Their domains are cheap and their email is straightforward. They have professional online security. GoDaddy even offers bookkeeping & accounting services nowadays.

GoDaddy offers the full gamut of services and ties them all in together well. There’s no pointing your DNS records or futzing with SMTP settings. It’s all there and it all works together. Big advantage to GoDaddy.

Scale & Resources

Like any large hosting company, they have issues with security. They represent a huge target to takedown…especially when political controversy erupts.

But – GoDaddy has the scale and resources to preemptively tackle security problems that smaller hosts simply can’t work with. This feature has to do with their huge scale (they have plenty of technology directed at thwarting spam and hackers), but also with GoDaddy’s restrictive policies (which will be a Con) but for now, it also keeps out spam and the attacks.

For example, when GoDaddy needed to beef up their online security product, they simply went and bought Sucuri – the go-to the web security company.

And scale has advantages too. When GoDaddy says that they can “increase your resources to deal with additional load” – yeah, they can actually do that. When a mass hack or DDoS attack happens – they actually have resources to throw at the problem.

For example, one of the largest exclusively Managed WordPress Hosting is WP Engine. They have 429 employees. They’ve been growing rapidly. GoDaddy has 6,000 employees and 17+ million customers. That can be a bad thing…but on the Internet, it can be a good thing.

Phone Support & Improved Down-Time

Some internet veterans will scoff at this (GoDaddy used to be absolutely notorious for support) but recently GoDaddy has greatly improved their customer service since the mid-2000s. They have improved even more so under their new CEO, and the new direction they set out in July of 2013.

And more importantly for many customers – they offer 24/7 phone support, which is not common among hosting companies – even those famous for customer service.

It’s not world-class, but for a huge corporate entity with super-discounted hosting… good support is a Pro in my book.

And they fulfill the *basic* duty of every web host… 99.9% uptime.

Brand Recognition & Stability

Yes. This is an advantage no matter what Internet hipsters say. Sometimes buying a big brand is an advantage even when a small upstart might be “better.” Big brands stick around and are stable. In an environment like the Internet where companies launch and fizzle daily, there’s an advantage to going with a company that has been around since the early days of the consumer Internet.

7 Cons of GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

Here are the 7 big disadvantages that GoDaddy has with WordPress Hosting.

Total Value Pricing

 

GoDaddy WP Pricing

Like I said about the advantages of pricing, WordPress Hosting plans are a little different in that you are basically paying for a recurring service rather than anything tangible. That might be what you are looking for but if you are trying to get full value for your money, WordPress Hosting and GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting, in particular, is a very poor value.

On all of GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans, you are severely limited on the number of websites and the storage space you’re getting – not to mention all the other freedoms you’re losing compared to a similarly priced web hosting plan.

For example, on my similarly priced InMotion Hosting Business Hosting (ie, regular web hosting plan) – I’ve got 6 small, but decently trafficked WordPress websites plus a self-hosted RSS reader plus I use it to triple-backup a few special family videos (ie, several gigabytes right there). When priced out by dollars per storage or by dollars per website – it’s an incredible value.

And that is ditto compared with GoDaddy’s regular web hosting plans.

Additionally, even in the world of WordPress Hosting plans – GoDaddy’s plans are cheap…but a seriously poor value when you look at the features that you actually get.

For example, HostGator provides unmetered storage space and unlimited email accounts on their WordPress Hosting plans. Not technically a “WordPress feature” – but still higher feature value.

And if you look at InMotion Hosting’s WordPress Hosting plans or SiteGround’s WordPress Hosting services – you’ll see that they both provide actual WordPress Hosting features that add value beyond their standard web hosting plans. They both provide built-in NGINX (a very advanced way to speed up WordPress) and built-in SSLs. InMotion even provides a staging environment at the lowest-priced tier.

Customer Protections & Politics

Remember the whole black out the Internet back in January of 2011 because of SOPA and PIPA? And remember when that same issue has come up again and again and again?

Yeah – everyone in favor of Internet Freedom was against those bills…except GoDaddy.

They eventually became against it…but only after customers transferred thousands of domains to competitors because of it.

Most of us will never forgive GoDaddy – especially because…

EDIT: This point is still true. GoDaddy is still exhibiting behavior that indicates they do not respect privacy or ethics (recent story here). They are a big brand that many argue can do things simply because they are the big brand. They are aware of this perception – which is why they recently took preemptive action on the Daily Stormer, but they don’t have a super-consistent protocol.

Branding, Marketing & Company Culture

GoDaddy has built their brand with odd market positioning and weird “talk about me” ad campaigns.

And weird in a bad way. For example, their CEO shoots elephants. And they use blatantly sexist advertising. All this among other just bad controversies.

GoDaddy has recently sanitized their site and said that their 2017 Super Bowl commercial would not revolve around sex. Their new campaign is to be the “champion of small business.”

However, they still want to maintain their “edgy” brand. That’s all an improvement, but I’m still wary of companies who do tons of interruption-style advertising over focusing on their product.

I don’t know how this brand & positioning transfers to their company culture but I personally don’t see it as a positive in the “doing business with companies that I love” category.

Hosting Feature Limitations

As mentioned in the Total Value Pricing section – GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans have surprisingly tight limits on features – even compared to direct competitors in the WordPress Hosting space.

Then again, I’ve also noted how they have hard & low limits on their web hosting compared to both big brands like Bluehost – but also to independent brands like InMotion and SiteGround.

Additionally, they are notorious for their own proprietary setup which can lead to email & hosting issues that are unique to GoDaddy. They have plenty of seemingly random caps on databases and bandwidth that you never really encounter until you really need to break those caps.

Account Lock-in & Diversification

This con relates to #1 above…but deserves its own spot.

Mainly because when you choose a web host – it’s a pretty big time commitment. You’ll be investing a lot of energy into your website – assuming that the host is doing their job.

And even though moving web hosts should be simple…there’s a lot of little things that can make it go wrong. GoDaddy isn’t famous for helping its customers leave. That’s a con.

EDIT: Yes, as of 2018…this is still true. It’s a bit easier since it is WordPress after all, but their domain transfer is needlessly interrupted with annoying upsells and obstacles. I recently did a client site redesign and scoped the project to migrate to another host. But – since my client had had email, domains and hosting there for years, the move simply wasn’t worth the hassle.

Upsells & Cross-sells

I mentioned this in my comparison of both GoDaddy’s native website builder product and their domain registration services – but wow, they are masters of upsells and cross-sells.

On one hand, it’s fine. They do own and operate a ton of complementary products. And it is convenient to keep all your services under one umbrella. But at a certain point, you’re not sure what you’re being pitched and what you’ve bought – and wow, you just want to get on with it.

With their WordPress Hosting plan – they promise “thousands” of free themes…when those are WordPress.org themes available to anyone, anywhere – but then upsell premium themes and even custom web design packages. They build in security to your WordPress website…but then pitch their upsell online security product. They promise “free SEO plugins” (which BTW, I’ve done a tutorial on here) while upselling marketing services.

It’s a bit exhausting – especially compared to other competitors.

Conclusion & Next Steps

GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting plans are an interesting option for anyone looking to build a WordPress powered website. They offer brand-name stability, core features, and affordable pricing.

If you are looking to build a single site, want to save money, and really only care about simplicity and results, then go get GoDaddy’s current WordPress discount here.

If you are looking for a WordPress Hosting plan with better support, features, and performance, then I’d recommend InMotion’s WordPress Hosting plans here.

If you aren’t sure, then check out my Buzzfeed-esque quiz on WordPress Hosting here.

And if you are simply looking for a guide to setup & install WordPress on a regular web hosting plan, check out my step by step guide here.

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting is GoDaddy's hosting product focused exclusively on WordPress websites.
GoDaddy WordPress Hosting
Date Published: 10/22/2018
GoDaddy WordPress Hosting is an affordable, brand-name option for anyone with a single site who doesn't need advanced hosting features.
3 / 5 stars

The post GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Review: Pros & Cons of Using GoDaddy appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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FreshBooks VS Wave

Freshbooks-vs-Wave

FreshBooks VS Wave

Accounting

✓

Features

✓

Pricing

✓

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Tie

Users & Permissions

Tie

✓

Ease of Use

✓

Mobile Apps

✓

Customer Service & Support

Tie

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Tie

Tie

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Tie

✓

Integrations

Tie

Security

Tie

?

Final Verdict

?

ReviewVisit

ReviewVisit

Choosing the right software for your business isn’t easy, especially when you have two great choices to pick from like FreshBooks and Wave.

FreshBooks has been helping small business owners with their invoices and expenses since 2003. The software offers strong mobile apps, excellent customer service, and good customer reviews. A recent redesign has made the software easier to use than ever.

Wave is completely free accounting software that has grown to support over 3 million users. The app offers strong accounting with ample features including project management, invoicing, and a basic ecommerce tool. Wave is also the only accounting software besides QuickBooks Online to offer lending services.

But which software is better? That’s what we’re here to tell you.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. So to make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll put FreshBooks and Wave head to head by comparing features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to. Read on to see which software is best for your business.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

This one’s easy. Wave wins by default because FreshBooks is not accounting software. While FreshBooks does offer a few basic bookkeeping tools, it does not use double-entry accounting. It also has no bank reconciliation features, no accounts payable, and no customizable chart of accounts.

Wave, on the other hand, uses double-entry accounting and offers both accrual and cash-basis accounting. The software offers bank reconciliation, journal entries, a detailed chart of accounts, and basic reporting,

Features

Winner: Wave 

FreshBooks Features Wave

✓

Invoicing

✓

✓

Estimates

✓

✓

Client Portal

✓

✓

Expense Tracking

✓

✘

Bank Reconciliation

✓

✓

Chart of Accounts

✓

✘

Accounts Payable

✓

✘

Inventory

✓

✓

Time Tracking

✓

✓

Project Management

✓

✓

Reports

✓

✘

Journal Entries

✓

✓

Sales Tax

✓

✓

Multi-Currency

✓

✘

Lending

✓

The two programs are pretty on par in terms of invoice template choices, time tracking, importing/exporting, and multi-currency support. However, Wave’s features are more developed than those of FreshBooks. Wave offers 5 more reports than FreshBooks, better project management, and better inventory. Wave also offers key features that FreshBooks is missing like bank reconciliation, vendor management, accounts payable, and a brand new ecommerce tool called Checkouts.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

You can’t beat free. Wave costs $0/month — no gimmicks, no tricks, no limitations. The only thing you have to pay for is adding payroll, payment processing, or bookkeeping help from a professional Wave advisor. FreshBooks costs $15/month – $50/month. FreshBooks is more expensive and offers fewer features, so businesses get a lot more bang for their buck with Wave.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

As cloud-based software, both FreshBooks and Wave are compatible with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Tie

Neither FreshBooks nor Wave shines in the “additional users” department. With FreshBooks, each pricing plan only comes with one user. You can add additional users for $10/month each, but you can’t set any user permissions. Wave was designed for the small business owner, meaning it’s not possible to have additional users. You can add “collaborators” who can view or view and edit your Wave account, but there are no permissions available here either.

If you’re looking for multiple users and strong users permissions, take a look at Zoho Books, QuickBooks Online, or Xero instead.

Ease Of Use

Winner: FreshBooks

Both Wave and FreshBooks have attractive interfaces that are well-organized and easy to use. However, FreshBooks has better customer support which helps you learn to navigate the software faster.

Mobile Apps

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks is well-known for its strong, full-featured mobile apps. Wave, on the other hand, has separated its apps into Receipts by Wave and Invoices by Wave. Neither app is full-featured and many users complain that they want a single, all-encompassing Wave app instead.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: FreshBooks

When it comes to customer support, FreshBooks can’t be beaten. FreshBooks offers great phone support with hardly any wait times. Representatives are generally friendly, helpful, and well-informed. In addition, FreshBooks offers a detailed help center, email support, and a comprehensive blog. Wave only offers phone support for payroll and payment processing users, leaving regular users a well-developed help center and email support. Most emails are responded to within a day, but it’s harder to get a quick response than with FreshBooks.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave are loved by customers. Each software receives mostly positive reviews, with a few negative complaints thrown in. For FreshBooks, users call for more features, better invoice templates, and true accounting. Wave users complain of limited mobile apps, lack of integrations, and occasionally slow servers.

Positive Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

FreshBooks and Wave have a similar ration of positive to negative complaints. Most users seemed thrilled with both programs and each software receives high marks across popular review sites. FreshBooks users love that the software is easy to use, offers professional invoicing, and has great customer service. Wave users love the software’s features, ease of use, and, of course, its price.

Integrations

Winner: FreshBooks

FreshBooks offers 70+ integrations as opposed to Wave’s four, so if add-ons are important to your business, FreshBooks is clearly the way to go.

Security

Winner: Tie

Both FreshBooks and Wave offer strong security. They each use 256-bit SSL encryption, redundancy, and regular backups, and they each host their servers with trusted security providers.

And The Winner Is…

While FreshBooks reputation for ease of use is well-earned, the software doesn’t always live up to these high expectations. First of all, despite its advertising, FreshBooks isn’t true cloud accounting software.

Wave, on the other hand, offers true accounting software and an incredible number of features for $0/month. In addition to the basic tools you’d expect from an accounting software, features like lending and Checkouts set the software apart and allow Wave to give even QuickBooks Online a run for its money. For small businesses looking to save money, you can’t beat Wave. The software is also ideal for Etsy users and ecommerce businesses.

That being said, businesses that don’t need the accounting capabilities or a large number of features may find FreshBooks to be a good choice. The software has better mobile apps and customer service than Wave. However, FreshBooks is far more expensive than Wave and your money only goes a short way with the software.

Perhaps, after reading this, neither option seems like the right choice for you. Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you explore all of your options so you can choose the perfect software for your business.

Check out our full FreshBooks and Wave reviews for more information.

The post FreshBooks VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide to PayPal’s Fees, Rates, and Pricing

As a consumer mobile wallet, PayPal is darn-near ubiquitous. But with more than 17 million merchants worldwide calling PayPal their payments processor, it’s also a massive force in the merchant services industry. So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get set up with credit card payments, whether for a POS system or online, PayPal is probably going to be on your radar, and with good reason.

But should you choose PayPal as your payments processor, and what will it cost? The good news is that PayPal offers transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing with no monthly fees, no account termination fees, or other hidden costs. You can predict fairly well what you’ll pay with PayPal, and all payment processing fees are deducted before PayPal deposits funds in your account.

The one major drawback is that PayPal is a third-party processor, also referred to as an aggregator. That means the company essentially onboards merchants as sub-users of one, giant merchant account that includes the entirety of PayPal’s merchant base. This means that the company does minimal underwriting before approving an account. You don’t need to provide much info beyond confirming your identity to open an account. However, this does mean you face a greater amount of scrutiny after opening an account, and PayPal can terminate your account or place a hold on funds with no notice to you.

That sounds worrisome, but the reality is it only happens to a small percentage of merchants. You can also take steps to protect yourself by recognizing the common red flags that processors look for and avoiding them. Check out our article on how to avoid merchant accounts holds and terminations to learn more.

PayPal obviously isn’t the right choice for everyone. There are restrictions on the types of products merchants can offer, and it doesn’t support certain business models. High-risk businesses should look somewhere else for a merchant account. However, most merchants should be fine with a PayPal account for payment processing.

Read on for a closer look at what you can expect to pay with PayPal as your business’ credit card processor! You can also check out our PayPal and PayPal Here reviews for a focused look at the products and services.

Payment Processing Fees

The major concern for most merchants who use (or are considering using) PayPal are the payment processing costs, so we’ll start there. PayPal offers predictable, flat-rate pricing for all merchants. You don’t have to worry about higher interchange for American Express cards, or MCCs, or qualified vs non-qualified transactions. Your exact rate will depend on the type of transaction.

Merchants who use PayPal’s mPOS app, PayPal Here, or integrate with one of PayPal’s POS partners (such as Vend), will pay the following for in-person transactions:

  • 2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped transaction
  • 3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction

For online transactions, including monthly subscription charges, donations, and digital invoices, PayPal charges the following:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction

That’s it. Really. The simplicity of PayPal’s pricing is one of the biggest draws for merchants. You can predict fairly easily what your pricing will be and, because PayPal deducts its fees before depositing funds in your account, you don’t have to worry about an end-of-the-month invoice or going over a limit and incurring additional fees.

What About Alternative Payment Processing Rates?

If you’re wondering whether PayPal offers any sort of alternative payment plans, the answer is yes. Merchants with an average transaction size under $10 can opt for the micropayments plan. PayPal also offers a nonprofit discount for online transactions to qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofits.

  • Micropayments Plan: 5% + $0.05 per transaction. (Note: This rate applies to all transactions, even those above $10)
  • Nonprofit Discount (Online Only): 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction

If you integrate with one of PayPal’s partner POS systems, such as Vend or TouchBistro, you may be eligible for special discounts  (presumably volume-based) or other promotions. However, these offers aren’t clearly disclosed, just advertised on the POS software sites.

Other PayPal Fees For Payment Processing

While PayPal does charge a few extra fees relating to payment processing, they aren’t many. But these are what you might come across:

  • 1.5% Cross-Border Transaction Fee: For US merchants who accept online payments from buyers out of the country, or in-person transactions involving a card from outside the US, PayPal charges a 1.5% cross-border fee. That means, for example, that a US merchant accepting a Canadian card at a POS terminal will pay 4% of the transaction value to PayPal.
  • 2.5% Currency Conversion Fee:  If PayPal has to convert the currency before it deposits the funds in your account, you’ll pay another 2.5% conversion fee. Whether you have to pay the conversion fee depends on the customer’s bank and whether it will handle the currency conversion (usually at a cost to the customer).
  • $20 Chargeback Fee: Chargeback fees are pretty standard, and if a customer files a chargeback against you, PayPal will assess a $20 fee in addition to withdrawing the funds to cover the transaction amount.
  • Refund Fee: In the event of a refund, PayPal will refund the percentage-based fee from the transaction to you, but keep the fixed fee. For most in-person transactions that means you’ll pay nothing. However, refunds on keyed transactions mean you’ll pay $0.15. Refunds on online or invoiced transactions will cost $0.30. PayPal can be a bit confusing about how this works in its transaction summaries, but be aware that you will pay a fee for most refunded transactions, albeit a small one.
  • 1% Instant Transfer Fee: If you’d like to move your PayPal balance to a bank account immediately, you can do that — for a fee. PayPal charges merchants 1% of the transfer value, capped at $10 per transfer, but your funds will be available typically within 30 minutes (s0 long as your bank’s system isn’t incredibly slow). You’ll have to connect an eligible debit card to support instant transfers as well. However, if you prefer to have instant access to funds without paying a fee, don’t forget that PayPal offers a business debit card that’s linked to your PayPal balance, too.

Software Fees

One of the big draws for PayPal is the lack of software fees. Instead of paying a monthly fee for PayPal’s ecommerce features, you pay only the payment transaction costs (in most circumstances — but we’ll come back to this in a moment). While you’ll need to arrange for your own domain and web hosting, you can implement PayPal’s “buy” and “donate” buttons with no additional costs. You can send digital invoices for free and only pay the transaction cost when the invoice is paid.

Likewise, access to PayPal’s mPOS app, PayPal Here (read our review) is also free. However, if you opt to integrate PayPal into a POS app, invoicing software, or another platform, you’ll be responsible for those software costs. PayPal doesn’t charge anything for use of the integration.

Also, take note: PayPal doesn’t charge merchants any PCI compliance fees, account maintenance fees, customer service fees, or termination/account closure fees.

However, PayPal does offer a couple of advanced software options that come with additional costs:

  • PayPal Payments Pro: The “Pro” plan from PayPal has two advantages. One, it includes a virtual terminal to accept payments over the phone by keying in a card from a browser window.  Two, it allows merchants to keep the checkout process on their own website rather than redirecting to PayPal to complete a transaction. This does come with a couple of concerns. For one, you’re not automatically PCI compliant and you’ll need to take additional steps to handle your PCI compliance. Two, $30/month for a virtual terminal is pretty pricey considering you’ll still pay higher rates than swiped/dipped/tapped transactions. Square and Shopify both offer free virtual terminals. Also, opting for PayPal Payments Pro and the Virtual Terminal will mean a few different transaction fees to worry about:
    • 3.5% American Express Fee: Any Amex cards will process at the higher 3.5% rate if you’re on the Pro plan.
    • 3.1% + $0.30 Virtual Terminal Fee: Any transactions processed through PayPal’s Virtual Terminal process at 3.1% + $0.30, plus the international transaction fee if applicable.
  • Recurring Billing: If you’d like to sell subscriptions (software, gift boxes, etc.), PayPal does offer a set of recurring billing tools. Recurring payments are available with PayPal’s Express Checkout Option at no additional charge, but if you have PayPal Payments Pro and want advanced tools, they’ll cost you $10/month. This doesn’t apply to “Donate” buttons, which have their own option for donors to choose between a one-time or recurring donation.

  • Mass Payouts: If you need to distribute funds to multiple parties, PayPal’s Mass Payouts feature might be an appealing option. You have two options here: using PayPal’s API to handle the command, or uploading a spreadsheet. Which method you choose affects how much you pay — if you opt to upload a spreadsheet through PayPal’s website, you’ll pay 2% per transaction, capped at a maximum $1 USD, which is pretty reasonable. If you opt for the API, you’ll pay a flat fee of $0.25 USD per payment. This is a great way to distribute payments to contractors, for example, or manage marketplace payments if you use PayPal’s platform.

PayPal Hardware Costs

Unless you’re integrating PayPal with a POS system or using the free mPOS, PayPal Here, you won’t have to worry about hardware costs. But if you do, you’ll have a few options for card readers:

  • Chip & Swipe Reader: PayPal’s entry-level chip reader sells for $24.99. In addition to EMV capabilities it supports magstripe transactions, but no contactless payments. However, it does connect to phones and tablets via Bluetooth and comes with a convenient mounting clip.
  • Chip & Tap Reader: To get a credit card reader that supports magstripe, EMV, and contactless payments, you’ll need the Chip and Tap reader, which sells for $59.99. We’ve already reviewed this reader as well as the optional charging dock ($30 separately, or bundled for $79.99), with a very positive rating. Again, the Chip and Tap reader connects via Bluetooth. In addition to the charging dock, it comes with a convenient mounting clip.
  • Chip Card Reader: The Chip Card Reader was the first EMV-enabled card reader PayPal offered, and it’s still the only hardware option for merchants who want to integrate with one of PayPal’s POS partners. It sells for $99 on the PayPal site, with an optional charging dock. Given the price point, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this all-in-one reader connects via Bluetooth.

  • Mobile Card Reader: PayPal used to offer its entry-level swipe-only reader for free, but now it sells for $15 because PayPal, like most processors, really wants you to start accepting EMV. Use of the mobile reader comes with limitations on accounts, so if you do a decent volume of credit card transactions and don’t want to encounter any holds on your funds, you should avoid the mobile reader at all costs:

*Key-in transactions and sales over $500 in a 7-day period made with the Mobile Card Reader are subject to an automatic 30-day reserve where funds are held in your PayPal account to cover the high risk associated with these types of transactions. For increased protection from fraudulent transactions, we recommend using a chip card reader. All PayPal accounts are subject to policies that can lead to account restrictions in the form of holds, limitations, or reserves. Additional information about these policies can be found in the PayPal User Agreement.

Apart from the cardreaders, PayPal doesn’t offer any proprietary hardware. If you need a countertop register setup, you can choose from an array of tablet stands, receipt printers, and cash drawers. A few select models are confirmed to work, while many others are “unofficially supported” in that they’re likely to work in most cases. The PayPal Here app doesn’t officially support any external barcode scanners (it supports in-app scanning using the device’s camera), but Bluetooth-enabled scanners may work with your setup.

Is PayPal Actually a Good Value?

We’ve talked pretty extensively about the cost of using PayPal, but we haven’t really talked about value. Because value is so much more than just the actual, physical cost. Value encompasses convenience, customer service, and other extra factors that could easily justify paying more than the absolute lowest prices.

PayPal isn’t the absolute cheapest processor out there — especially not for businesses that handle more than $10,000/month in credit card transactions. Larger businesses may be eligible for merchant accounts with volume discounts. For low-volume businesses, PayPal often does offer more competitive pricing because of the lack of monthly fees. The flat-rate pricing, especially for in-person transactions, can mean cost savings over interchange-plus.

But the real value in PayPal is the massive consumer trust and convenience. Just about everyone recognizes the PayPal name, and with 200+ million consumer users around the world, it’s safe to say a lot of people have PayPal accounts. The barriers to entry are minimal — you don’t need a huge amount of technological experience to implement PayPal for in-person or online payments. As long as you aren’t using PayPal Payments Pro, you don’t even have to worry about PCI compliance. PayPal handles it for you, at no additional cost.

Apart from the issue of account terminations or funding holds, the only other consistent complaint about PayPal is its customer service, and reports vary. Some merchants say they’ve never had a problem with customer service. Others say that their support reps have been downright unhelpful when they’ve called in. Fortunately, PayPal offers extensive self-help resources so you should be able to deal with most technical issues without having to contact PayPal directly.

I can’t say unequivocally that PayPal is right for everyone. It’s not. But it is a really good option for a lot of merchants, especially low-volume businesses that are just starting out. For a closer look at PayPal and all its services, we recommend checking out our PayPal and PayPal Here reviews.

If you’re not sure PayPal is right for you, I suggest looking at our Square vs. PayPal article, as the two companies are fairly similar in their business models and offerings.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you, so please drop us a comment!

The post The Complete Guide to PayPal’s Fees, Rates, and Pricing appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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